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Full text of "Estella's husband, or, Thrice lost, thrice won [microform]"

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ESTELLA'S HUSBAND;! 



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THRICE LOST, THRICE WON. 

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MAY AGNES FLEMINa 



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CHICAGO: 
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ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



CHAPTER L 

K0Y8TEN DARRELL. 

A LONG, low room, paneled in black walnut, the dim day- 
light stealing in through the high, narrow windows, gloomy 
and dark, and almost unfurnished. A few stiff-backed 
wooden chairs, primly arranged, round the walls, a deal 
table, covered with oilcloth, in the middle of the floor, a 
stony-hearted old horpe-hair sofa — nothing more. In a 
huge gulf of a fire-place, wide enough to hold yule logs at 
Christmas-time, a fire of green wood sputtered and smoked 
viciously, and failed to lighten or heat the somber room. 

It was an afternoon early in May, but a chill wind blew 
rawly over the sea, and drifted the rain ceaselessly against 
the narrow windows. A hopelessly wet and windy after- 
noon, with a low-lying black sky, frowning down on a moan- 
ing black sea, and with trees tossing drearily in the wailing, 
desolate blast. Desolate without, desolate within, the one 
occupant of that eerie chamber paced up and down, up 
and down, w'th all the gloom of the weather shadowed 
darkly in his face. 

An old man, bent, and withered, and wrinkled, with 
scanty gray locks straggling from under a rusty oM skull- 
cap, and a face seamed and drawn into innumerable fur- 
rows. From under bushy gray brows two keen eyes 
twinkled, and the long, lean hands, clasped behind his 
back, were hooked like the talons of a bird of prey. 

He stopped short in his restless walk suddenly, at the 
sound of a loud-voiced clock, somewhere outside, striking 
sonorously four. 

** Four o'clock," muttered the old man, angrily, " and 
lie told Simpson he would be here directly. Some people 
would dawdle, I believe, though th« crown of the world 



ESTHLLA *S H U8BAND. 



awaited them. And yet, RoyBten Darrell is not one of that 
sort, either." 

He walked to one of the windows and looked out. There 
were six windows to the long, antique room, three looking 
east, over a bare expanse of desolate marsh and swampy 
meadow land, and three looking Ws-st, over a bleak, circu- 
lar beach and illimitable waste of sea. Through one of 
these western windows the old man gazed at the lonesome 
prospect — at the long, forsaken shore, at the rain-beaten 
ocean. 

Far away to the right you caught a glimpse of a strag- 
gling village; far away to the left spread out the sodden 
marshes and bare, windy beach. No living thing was to 
be seen, but about a mile distant, rising and falling on the 
long groundswell, a low, dark schooner lay at anchor 
within a sheltered curve of the circular shore. 

*' Ay," said the old man, apostrophizing this piratical- 
looking craft, "there you lie — black bird of ill-omen — 
rightly named the * Haven. ' There you lie, black and for- 
bidding! and many a dark deed has been done on your pol- 
ished deck, and many a foul crime, I dare say, has your 
gloomy hulk hidden. There you lie, you black buccaneer I 
fitting craft to be commanded by reckless Hoysten — by 
Dare-devil Darrell. And yet there are worse scoundrels 
out yonder in the world than the mad-headed smuggler 
captain — fortune-hunters, with glib tongues and polished 
manners; and ten to one but the girl may fall a victim to 
one of them, if I let her go. Better marry Boysten Dar- 
rell than one of those black-hearted hypocrites. Whatever 
he is — give the devil his due — I don^'t think it is in him 
to be unkind to a woman." 

He walked away from the window to the table, took up 
a letter lying there, and read it over slowly, from begin- 
ning to end — a long letter, written in a delicate, spidery 
hand, and signed Helen Mallory." 

He laid it down, after his slow perusal, seated himself 
before the sputtering fire, and gazed thoughtfully into its 
smoky heart. 

** And to think he should turn up at last — after over 
sixteen years, and claim his child. To think that he 
should be a nobleman and a millionaire — to think that this 

firl, half educated, half civilized, brought up by old Peter 
isher, should have the wonderful sang azure of the old 



m 



estella's husband. 



ripime in her yeins, and be this French nabob's sole heir- 
ess! It is like a fairy tale or a melodrama; it is like 
nothing in real life. Ha! that knock! Heckless Koysten 
at last.^' 

A thundering knock, that made the lonely old house 
vibrate, came to the front door. The old man smiled 
grimly as he heard it. 

'* It is characteristic of the man — Dare-devil Darrell's 
knock the wide world over. Big, blundering, impetuous 
giant! Ten to one but he refuses to make his fortune, 
after all." 

A slip-shod footstep was heard straggling along the low 
passage, a chain was slipped, a key turned, and the house 
door opened. Directly after there was a scuffle in the pas- 
sage, and a boisterous bass laugh. 

** My Hebe! my idol!" cried this boisterous voice. ** My 
lovely Judith, do I again behold thee? Never squirm or 
wriggle, my fair one, but give me a kiss, and have done 
with it." 

Here there was a struggle, and a sounding slap, '^Uowed 
by a second jovial laugh. 

** It's like your impidence. Captain Darrell," exclaimed 
a shrill female voice. '* If I'd a-knowed it was you, you 
might a-knocked the door down afore I'd have opened it. 
Let me alone, I tell you, or I'll scratch your eyes out" 

A man's step came bounding up the stairs — each stride 
making them creak with his weight; then the door was 
flung open, and Captain Boysten Darrell, of the schooner 
** Raven," stood before old Peter Fisher. 

A magnificent monster — a giant of six feet three, with 
the thews and sinews and muscles of a gladiator — the build 
of a Farnese Hercules, and the symmetry of an Apollo 
Belvedere. A kingly head, crowned with a glorious aure- 
ole of red-brown hair; magnificent beard and mustache of 
the same leonine hue; a broad, white forehead; two brill- 
iant blue eyes, full of laughing light; a symmetrical nose, 
and a ruddy complexion well browned by exposure to 
freezing winds and tropic suns. An overgrown Adonis — a 
human lion, a superb specimen of muscular Christianity — 
aged seven-and-twenty years. 

The old man wheeled round in his chair, and eyed the 
big captain of the " Raven " with a grim stare. 

** At last, Roysten Darrell! You nave kept me waitings 



f, 

V 

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t estella's husband. 

and I hate people who make me wait. Tou told Simpaom 
you would lollow him directly, and Simpson has been back 
over an hour/* 

** Simpson may go hang!" responded Roysten Darrell, 
politely, '* and you, too, my Ancient Mariner, if it comes 
to that. Do you suppose I have nothing else to do, when 
ashore, than daniMtig attendance upon you and Simpson? 
It was touch-aiid-^o my getting here at all, most worthy 
old buffer. I had other fish to fry, I can tell you. But 
here I am ; and now, what the deuce do you want in such 
a hurry?" 

** To make your fortune, Roysten Darrell, little as you 
deserve it. So try and keep a civil tongue in your head. 
You're not on the deck of the * Raven ' now, remember^ 
and Peter Fisher isn't one of your slaves. " 

** Make my fortune, eh?" repeated Captain Darrell, 
coolly. ** Why don't you make your own first, Mr. Fisher? 
This old rookery of yours will tumble about your ears one 
of these days. Take a little of the fortune you are going 
to make for me and repair it. Have you found the Phi- 
losopher's Stone, or Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp, or a cruci- 
ble to turn all metals into gold? or have you come upon a 
buried treasure, or what? I have no objection to have my 
fortune made, and it's slow work making it in the * Raven.' 
The revenue cutters were within an ace of having me, 
orew and cargo, this last time." 

** They'd have had you long ago, if you had been an 
honester man; but Satan is go^ to his own. However, 
your fortune is made, and within your grasp now, if you 
choose to reach out your hand and take it. " 

" Then, by Jove, I choose! Just have the goodness 
to explain yourself a little. " 

The old man leaned forward, and his keen, ferret eyes 
peered sharply into the brilliant blue orbs of the stalwart 
captain. 
. ** Roysten Darrell, have you any objection to a wife?" 

*'!Not the least in life! To a dozen, if you choose. 
Have yoti found me one?" 

** I have — an heiress — a millionaire's only child." 

*' Good! It has been the ambition of my life to marry 
a millionaire's daughter. But where is she? I didn't 
know millionaires existed over in yon big fishing village of 
Rockledge." 



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18TELLA 8 HUSBAND. 









** No more do they. She isn't in Rockledge; she is here, 
in this house." 

" Thousand thunders!** cried Roysten Darrell, in his 
boisterous voice. ** You don't mean old Judith? By 
Jupiter! I'm not of a fastidious stomach in these matters, 
but ril be hanged if I could bring myself to such a pitch 
as that. No, my worthy old crony," said the captain of 
the ** Raven," making a wry face, *' if Judith is your, 
heiress, you'll allow me to decline. Much obliged to you^ 
though, all the same." 

**I)on't be a fool, Darrell!" exclaimed Peter Fisher, 
angrily, '' and don't lift the roof with that big voice of 
yours. I don't mean Judith, you know as well as I do; I 
mean Estella Mallorv." 

'' What! Little Estella? But, mon ami, she's only a 
child." 

*' She's over sixteen years. Captain Darrell, and a good- 
looking, well jrown girl. You objected to age a moment 
ago — now you object to youth. Pray what will you have?" 

'* I'll have little Estella with all the pleasure in life. 
The question is, will Estella have me? She scuds, like a 
frightened deer, at the first glimpse of me. " 

No wonder, with your rough ways, and your thunder- 
ous voice, and your ponderous six foot three. But I'll 
make that all right — she'll do whatever I tell her, or I'll 
know the reason why. And you'll marry her? Give me 
your hand on that, feoysten Darrell." 

The captain of the ** Raven " stretched out his big 
brown paw, and gave one of the lean talons a grip that 
made the old man wince. 

** I'll marry her fast enough, and every other pretty girl 
from Maine to Florida, if you like. But where's your 
heiress? where's your millionaire? I thought little Estella 
was an orphan." 

** So diet I until within the last day or two, when a letter 
comes and tells me her papa has most unexpectedly turned 
up. He is a French nobleman, worth a mint of money, and 
Estella — when he finds her — is his heiress and only child.** 

** A marvelous tale," said Captain Darrell; '* so mar- 
velous, my old friend, that I can't swallow it at the first 
fulp. Who is this Estella Mallory (Mallorv hasn't a very 
rench sound, by the way), and how does old Peter Fisher, 
of Fisher's Folly, come to be the adopted father of French 



>'.■' 

■} 

''■i 



10 



estella's husband. 



noblemen's daughters? You'll exonse my onrioBity, bat 
if Tm to marry the young lady, it strikes me I should like 
to know something of her antecedents. " 

'*You shall know all," said Peter Fisher. ** Her 
mother, Estclla Mallory (yes, the girl bears her mother's 
name, not her father's), eloped at tlie agd of eighteen with 
an unknown foneigner, her music teacher — a poor devil, 
with nothing but a handsome face, a black mut taohe, and 
a high-sounding name— an exile. Whether she was his 
wife or not did not appear, and the Mallory family — proud 
as the — as your best friend, Captain Darrell — were shocked 
and horrified, and scandalized beyond everything. How 
she spent the first year of her union with Monsieur Haut- 
ville does not appear — wretchedly enough, I infer, in pov- 
erty and loneliness. The first thing that is known of her, 
she turns up here — she comes to me in her misery and 
utter friendliness for shelter and succor. 1 had known 
pretty Estella Mallory when a graceful girl of fifteen, and 
she came to me in preference to the home she had aban- 
doned forever. She came in poverty and sickness, and I 
took her in and did my best for her. But that best could 
not save her life — she went to her grave, a broken-hearted 
woman, at the age of eighteen. In this house her child 
was born, and we named her after the mother that was dead 
and gone." 

The grim old face grew a shade less grim, as he told the 
story — the every-day story of a woman's woe. Boysten 
Darrell listened intently. 

" And monsieur — how do you call him? the gay deceiver 
—where is he?" 

**In France. With the overthrow of the old dynasty, 
and the rise of the Napoleonic star, he went back to be 
reinstated in the old title and the old estates. That was 
all the dying girl could or would tell me; but I know she 
thought he had deserted her. She wore his wedding- 
ring, she showed me her marriage certificate — but she never 
looked to see his faco in this world a^ain. No letter, no 
message ever came — she died believing herself betrayed and 
deserted. And yet it seems it was not so; after sixteen 
years our French noble turns up and claims his child." 

'* How does he discover he has one?" asked Captain 
Darrell. 

** From his dead wife's only sister and sole living relft- 



E8TELLA*S HUSBAND. 



11 



u 



tire, Helen Mallory. He returns to this country, anxious 
to make reparation — to own his marriage, to claim hiH 
wife. His wife he can not find — her siHter he does, and 
lenrns Estella is dead and buried, and her daughter and 
living image lives and bears her name. He is immensely 
rich — he has his ancient title — he burns to behold his 
daughter, and claim her as his heiress. But Helen Mal- 
lory neither forgives nor forgets the past; his tardy repent- 
ance does not move her; she refuses to tell him where that 
daughter is to be found. * 1 will write to her guardian, M. 
le Comte,' she says, coldly; * you have little claim to my 
dead sister's child. I will tell Mr. Fisher what you have 
told me; if he is ready to resign the girl he has adopted and 
reared from infancy, well and good; if not — you must 
seek her and find her for yourself, without any clew from 
me.' She keeps her word— this haughty Helen Mallory; 
her letter came two days ago. Monsieur the Count offers 
immense rewards for his heiress; he is ready to pay any 
sum 1 may demand. Here is the letter — read for your- 
self.'' 

The old man took the letter from the table and passed 
it to the captain of the *' Baven." Boysten Darrell read 
it carefully from beginning to end. 

** A very nice letter and a very good turn-up for you ! 
But you'll excuse my dullness, Mr. Slsher, if I say I don't 
see clearly how all this is to benefit me !" 

** In the easiest way imaginable — as the girl's husband. 
Look here, Roysten — you marry her before she knows any- 
thing of her good fortune. When this wealthy French 
count finds his daughter, he finds his daughter's husband 
also. What belongs to your wife belongs to you; you claim 
her fortune, and you — share that fortune with me. " 

"Exactly!' replied Captain Darrell, coolly; '* and the 
lion's share, too, I take it. A very charming scheme, Mr. 
Peter Fisher, but not altogether practicable. In the first 
place, little Estella won't marry me — you'll find she won't 
— and these girls can be as determined as the deuce, when 
they choose. In the second place, supposing you compel 
her to marry me, she won't live with me an hour after 
she finds her rich father. And what do you suppose that 
ariRtooratic papa will say to a son-in-law who weds his 
daughter, willy-nilly, after he finds out she has a fortune? 



i 



12 



jjstella's husband. 



What will M. le Comte think of you? what will he think ojf 
me?" 

** Whatever he pleases. You will be hev husband all the 
same, and it will be rather late in the day for an esclandre. 
Monsieur the Count must put up with the inevitable. At 
the worst, there will be a compromise and a divorce, and 
you will bleed the Parisian nabob to the tune of half his 
fortune. Half of that half you will hand over to me, and 
it will make us both rich for life. What do you say, Roy- 
•ten Darrell — will you make a bold stroke for fortune, and 
marry the girl out of hand?*' 

Peter Fisher leaned forward, his greedy old eyes glisten- 
ing. 

The brilliant blue orbs of the captain met that eager 
gaze with imperturbable sang froid. 

** Yon cold-blooded old reprobate!" he said, taking out 
a cigar and biting off the end. " You're a deeperSyed 
villain than / am; and that is saying a good deal. You 
have brought up this girl from babyhood — you stand 
pledged to her dead mother, who trusted you, for her wel- 
lare; and here you are, bartering her off, as though she were 
a little slave-girl under the auctioneer's hammer. Why, 
you thundering Old crocodile, have you no bowels of com- 
passion? Don't you know you are trying your hardest to 
make her miserable for life? 

The old man listened unmoved, an evil sneer on his 
withered face. 

** Satan turned saint! Roysten Darrell changed into a 
second St. Kevin! Go — there's the door! Go back to the 
' Raven,' and let the revenue officers take you, and rot in 
prison for me. You're a greater fool than I took you to 
be!" 

** Thank you, old messmate! I believe I will go, for 1 
'hare business to attend to that id rather pressing. How 
soon is pretty little Estella to become Mrs. Roysten Dar- 
rell?" 

*' Ah, I thought your scruples would end in that way! 
You will marry her, then?" 

** Most assuredly. Do you think me capable of refus- 
ing so small a favor to a lady? 1*11 marry her to-morrow, 
if you choose, and take her with me for a honey-moon cruise 
in the * Raven. ' Meantime, you can settle matters with 
papa, and when we return, Mrs. Darrall, heartily sick of 



estella's husband. 



13 



the sea and of matrimony, I shall be ready for that divorce 
and half of the millionaire's fortune. Good-evening to 
you, old hypocrite! Settle matters with the young lady — 
tell lies by the yard — ril swear, through thick and thin, to 
all you assert. To-morrow, about this time, I'll be along 
again to hear the result.*' 

He rose up, and swung off with his long, sailor stride. 

Peter Fisher watched him out of the room, with a grim 
glance, and heard the house-door close after him with a 
bang that made him wince. 

" The devil take him!" muttered the old man. " He'll 
smash every hinge in the house if he comes here often. If 
there were any other way — but there is not, and she must 
marry him. After all, a divorce will set everything right 
again. I will have feathered my nest, and away in France, 
who will be the wiser? It must be. I'll break it to her at 
once. " 

He seized a hand-bell on the table ^nd rang a vigorous 
peal. 

The summons was answered by fi gaunt old woman, as 
grim, and wrinkled, and withered as her master. 

'* Send Estella Mallory here, Judith," her master said. 
** Tell her to come at once." 

The gaunt domestic departed without a word, and Peter 
Fisher sat staring nervously into the smoky JSre. 

Outside, the rain beat, and the wind blew, and the dusk 
of the dismal spring day already darkened the dismal room. 

The old man shivered as the shrill gale whistled round 
the lonely gables. 

*' After all," he muttered, ** she ought to be glad to get 
away from this grewsome place — glad of anything for a 
change. Roysten Darrell's a handsome fellow, and girls 
all like to be married. 1 hope she won't object. I don't 
'want to use force. There's a look of her dead mother in 
her big, brown eyes sometimes that — Oh« here she 
comes!" 



■•i\ 



CHAPTER II. 

ESTELLA. 

There was the quick pattering of li^ht feet down ihA 
long, steep stairs— the last three cleared with a jump — 



14 



estella's husbaxd. 



then the door flew open, and Peter Fisher's ward stood^ 
brightly smiling, on the threshold. 

The fire leaped up as she entered, as if briofhtened by her 
bright presence, and lighted the dusky room. The old 
man shaded his eyes with his hand, nnd looked furtively 
at her, thinking, in spite of himself, what a contrast she 
was to his late visitor — to the gigantic oaptain of the 
'* Raven," and his gaunt, grim old nousekeeper. 

She stood before him — a tall, slender damsel, with a 
pale, rather thin face, and the evident consciousness of 
having too many arms, which it is in the nature of sixteen 
years to have. Great brown eyes, dark, deep-shining, 
lighted up this pale, girlish face — not beautiful yet, but 
full of the serene promise of future beauty. Beautiful eyes 
— now black and sparkling, now soft and glowing with 
umber light, reminding you of Balzac's " Girl with the 
Golden Eyes." 

With these wondrous brown eyes went a wondrous fall 
of hazel hair, rippling, waving, shining, down to her slen- 
der waist — a glorious chevehire, that would have driven a 
fashionable belle wild with envy. 

She stood before him there, in the fire-light, so brightly 
pretty that it was a pleasure only to look at her. 

** Her mother's image," old Peter Fisher thought, with 
a little nervous tremor. *' It is like ^jceing the ghost of the 
dead." 

** You sent for me. Uncle Fisher?" the girl asked, in 
her fresh, young voice. *' Judith told ma you wanted to 
see me very particularly." 

** And so 1 do. Come in, child, and shut the door. 
Take that seat— I have something very important to say to 
you." 

The bright, brown eyes opened wide, &nd fixed them- 
selves in a frank stare of astonishment on the seamed old 
face. 

In all her sixteen years' experience, Mr. l^'isher never 
had had anything of importance to say to her before. 

The old man shifted in his chair, and leaned back further 
into the shadow, strangely uneasy under that c'ear gaze. 

** Do you know how old you are, Estella?" he asked. 

** Why, yes, uncle; sixteen, last March." 

'* Sixteen years and three months^ and a young woman^ 
BsteUa" 



ESTELLA'S HUBBA^ND. 



15 



Estella Mftllory laughed — a clcar^ sweet laugh. 

'* I hope I am nothing half so stupid. A young woman! 
How prim and dowdyish it sounds! One is only a girl at 
sixteen. Time enough to be a young 'oman wnen one is 
two-or three-and- twenty." 

'* Pooh! nonsense! You're as much of a woman almoet 
as you'll ever be — a strong, well-grown girl. Plenty of 
women are married before they're your age." 

Miss Mallory shrugged her graceful shoulders. 

'* They must be in a hurry, uncle. If there's one thinr 
more stupid and dowdyish than being a * young woman, 
it is to be married. Is this what you sent for me to talk 
»bout?" 

It was quite evident Mr. Fisher's ward was not in the 
least awe of her grim guardian. And, indeed, you needed 
but look once into those bright, frank eyes to see that utter 
fearlessness was a characteristic of the girl's nature. 

" Estella," said the old man, shifting his base, " aren't 
you tired of this place — of this lonely old house — of those 
dreary marshes — of that everlasting sea — of that stupid 
Rockledge?" 

** Dreadfully tired, uncle — tired to death of it all ages 
ago. " 

'* And you would like to leave it, wouldn't you?" eager- 
ly. ** To travel and see the world, to visit great cities, to 
be yoiir own mistress, and quit Fisher's Folly forever?" 

The brown eyes dilated; the pretty lips came breathlessly 
apart. 

** Uncle, what do you mean? Are you going to send me 
away? Oh!" clasping the little hands in sudden rapture, 
" perhaps you. are going to send me to school." 

** No, my — my dear. That would not be freedom — only 
another more irksome kind of bondage. Boarding-school 
girls are veritable slaves, and half-starved at that No, 
no, Estella! I mean something better than that." 

** Then, perhaps yo« are going to quit Rockledge your- 
self, and take me and Judith with you. That would be 
nice. " 

*' Better still, Estella. Can not you guess?" 

Miss Mallory shook Ler brown curls. 

** No, uncle, I can't travel over the world alone; and, 
unless you are going to take me, 1 give it up!" 

'* My dear," the old man said, his voice trembling witk 



» 

\ 
I 



II 



estella's husband. 



eagerness, ** you need not go alone. A younger and hand* 
8omer man will take you. You are old enough to be mar- 
ried, Estella. You shall go as a bride!" 

Estella Mallory gave a little, gasping cry, then sat star- 
ing in speechless astonishment. 

** You lii£e young and handsome men — don't yoU; my 
dear? All young girls do. And he's — he's very much in 
Jove with you," said Mr. Peter Fisher, bringing the words 
out with a gulp, ** and ready to do anything under the sun 
for you. He will take you everywhere. To New York — 
and New York is a wonderful city, Estella— to foreign 
jiwids, if you wish. He will be your slave; every wish of 
aurs will be his law. You shall have silk gowns, and gold 
ear-rings, and cart-loads of those novels you like so much^ 
;< nd everything your heart can desire. All he asks in return 
i« that you marry him — this week." 

** This week!" gasped the stricken Eotella; "good 
gracious me ! Uncle Fisher, who are you talking about?" 

** About the man who loves you so much, Estella," re- 
plied Uncle Fisher, with ghastly playfulness. ** Can't you 
guess his name?" 

** Does he ever come here?" 

** Yes, my dear — often. " 

" Then 1 give it up," said Estella, promptly, " for I 
never saw a young and handsome man inside this house in 
my life." 

'* Think, my dear — think. Try again." 

** Think!" repeated Estella; '* it doesn't require any 
thinking. There's Mr. Jacobs, the minister, he comes 
here, and he's got a bald head, and a wife and five chil- 
dren. There's Doctor Skinner, he drops in sometimes, 
and he's a widower of sixty-live, with granddaughters 
older than I am. There's the butcher and the grocer, they 
come after their bills monthly, and they're both married 
men, and old and ugly as original sin. There's your law- 
yer — old Grimshaw — with a face like a death's-head, who 
has buried three wives and is looking out for a fourth. 
Perhaps it is Mr. Grimshaw, uncle; though if you think 
him either young or handsome, you must be taking leave 
of your senses." 

Mr. Fisher laughed a feeble, little laugh. 

*' Ha! ha! my dear; very good! But it isn't Mr. Grim- 
aluiw, nor any of those you have mentioned. Try again." 



ebtella's husband. 



1? 



*' Where's the use?" exclaimed Estella, impatiently. 
** I never see any one else here. I can't guess. Who is 

it?" 

** My dear, he was here this very afternoon." 

Estella Mallory gave a cry, and fairly sprung from her 
chair. 

** Uncle! Mr. Fisher! You never mean to say you're 
talicing of the smuggler captain — of that great, big, red- 
headed monster. Captain Darrell?" 

" I'll thanic you to keep a civil tongue in your head. 
Miss Mallory!" said Peter Fisher, sharply. ** les, I mean 
the captain of the ' Baven.' A young and handsome man, 
miss, if there ever was one yet. 

" Oh!" cried Estella. 

It was all she could say. She dropped back in her chair, 
mute with amazement. 

** Captain Darrell was here this afternoon, and he wants 
to many you. He'll take you on board the * Raven ' any- 
where in the wide world you would like to go. " 

*' I'd see Captain Darrell and the ' Kaven ' at the bottom 
of the Red Sea first!" burst out Estella Mallory, her pale 
face turning crimson with indignation; ** that great, fright- 
ful, overgrown, wicked wretch! Why, if there is any one 
man in the whole world 1 have a horror of, it is that mani 
A smuggler — a pirate — a — " 

** Silence /" thundered Peter Fisher, starting to his 
feet; *^ you bold minx, how dare you say such things of any 
friend of mine? Captain Darrell is a thousand times too 
good for you — a nameless pauper — and does you a thou- 
sand times too much honor by taking any notice of you at 
all." 

** I don't want him to take any notice of me," responded 
the young lady, rather sulkily. ** I hate him!" 

*' You shall marry him for all that. Do you think I am 
going to keep you on my hands forever — a burden and a 
drag? I always resolved you should marry the first decent 
man who asked you, and Roysten Darrell is the first, and 
you shall marry him I" 

** I sha'n't!" returned Estella, with resolute defiance, 

'* and he isn't a decent man! I know what they SLy of 

him in the village; 1 know how the revenue cutters chase 

hha; 1 know how he killed one of his men who informed 






1 1 
I 

i\ 



'-'"f: 



■ 



18 



estella's husband. 



on him two years ago — split his skull open with a crowbar; 
I know—" 

** 1 know you'll get your neck twisted, or your skull 
split open, if you don't mind what you say!" shrieked the 
old man, in a fury. '* Hold your poisonous tongue, miss^ 
and hear me out! Koysteu Darrell wants to marry you, 
and whether you like it, or whether you don't, marry hirx 
you shall, before you are a week older. Do you hear^ 
Estella Mallory? Marry him you shall before another 
week!" 

*' 1 hear," said Estella, getting up resolutely, *' and 1 
wonH ! No, Mr. Fisher, not if you were to kill me! I'm 
afraid of that man — I hate him ! and I'd die a thousand 
times before I'd ever be a wife of his!" 

** Dying is very easy in theory — very hard in practice. 
Young ladies of sixteen will do a good deal before they die. 
A week's imprisonment on bread and water will cool the 
fever in your blood, and bring down that high spirit a 
little. 1 won't lock you up to-night. I'll give you a last 
chance. But if, by to-morrow, when Captain Darrell 
comes here for his answer, that answer is not * Yes!' up you 
go to the attic, there to stay among the rats and beetles 
until the yes comes!" 

Estella shuddered, but walked determinedly to the door. 

** Stop!" exclaimed the old man, also rising. " Hear me 
out! Don't think of escape. You have neither money nor 
friends — you stand utterly alone in the wide world, depend- 
ent on me. No one in the village will help or harbor you. 
You are entirely in my power, to do with as I choose. If 1 
locked you up until the rats gnawed the flesh off your bones, 
and nothing but your rattling skeleton remained, who 
would be the wiser? Think better of it, my good girl, and 
when Captain Darrell comes here to-morrow, be ready to 
say * yes, and ' thank you.' Now go." 

The girl left the room without a word. In the dim light 
of the dusky passage she was deathly pale, but the youthful 
face looked fixed and resolute as doom. 

She walked to a window at the end of the hall, and 
looked out. The rain had ceased, but the wind whistled 
shrilly and rant the black, jagged clouds wildly hither 
and thither. 

The sea tossed wild and white, with a roar like thunder, 
and dim, and dark, and far od she could just make out 



estella's husband. 



19 



;h a crowbai; 

Dr your skull 
shrieked the 
iongMQ, miss, 

marry you, 
, marry hin 
►o you hear, 
fore another 

tely, "andl 
ill me! I'm 
e a thousand 

1 in practice, 
ore they die. 
mil cool the 
iiigh spirit a 
^e you a last 
tain Darrell 
Iq&V up you 
I and beetles. 

to the door. 

" Hear me 
r money nor 
rid, depend- 
harbor you. 

oose. If 1 
[your bones, 
ained, who 
girl, and 
ready to 

|e dim light 
le youthful 

hall, and 
id whistled 
[dly hither 

|e thunder, 
make out 



the '* Raven,'' outlined against the gloomy skv. Either 
the sight, or the raw, rattling blast, made her shiver from 
head to foot. 

** It is easier to die,** she said to herself, her brown eyes 
looking black under her bent brows. ** He is a robber 
and a murderer — an outlaw and a villain— a wretch for 
whom the gallows is waiting! Better be eaten alive by the 
rats up in the attic, than live an hour with liim ! But, 
oh ! I don't understand it all. What on earth can he want 
to marry me for? I won't marry him, and I won't be 
locked up! You'll see, Mr. Fisher I This is Dick's night 
—dear, clever old Dick — and he will tell me how to outwit 
them both.'' 



[J 

1.1 

1 1 



CHAPTER III. 

DICK DERWENT PLOTS. 

Peter Fisher's dreary dwelling— Fisher's Folly — stood 
as dismally isolated from other dwellings as a house could 
well stand. A long, dark, rambling old place, gloomier 
without than within, if possible, perched on a windy cliff 
overlooking the lonely sea. Far away on either hand 
spread the desolate marshes and arid fields, burned dry 
under the broiling sea-side sun. Three miles off lay Rock- 
ledge— the little country town; and the road between Rock- 
ledge and Fisher's Folly was as lonely and dismal a stretch 
of road as you could find in a long year's search. 

Those ghastly fields— those sodden marshes, dotted with 
elumps of gloomy cedars — spread out unutterably grewsome 
after dusk, and very rare was it, indeed, to meet a human 
being on that deserted road once the gloaming fell. 

But on this wild and windy May night, a tall young man 
•trode cheerily along the lonesome path, whistling a lively 
tune. A tall and slender youth of one-or two-and-twenty, 
with a frank, good-looking, high-colored face, and merry, 
light-blue eyes. A young man on whose boyish face the 
callow down was just beginning to crop up in palest hues, 
and whose long legs measurS off the ground in seven- 
league strides. 

Under his arm he carried a bundle of books, in tattered 
paper covers, and as he whistled along he cast anxious 
glances now and then up at the overcast sky. The rain 



'-n 



\ { 



M 



estella's husband. 



had entirely ceased, but the wind blew a gale, and the 
black clouds scudded wildly before it over the stomiy sky. 
** Anasty nightl" the young man muttered — ** cold, and 
raw, and bleak for my dear girl to venture out. But she 
won't fail, bless her dear little fearless heart ! She's a great 
deal too fond of *vellow-covered literature * for that. 1 
wish she were too fond of poor Dick Derwent also I But 
that's too good to hope for." 

His whistle ended in a lugubrious sigh, and his cheery 
face clouded a little. 

" Will she ever like me, I wonder, as 1 like her? Will 
it go on like this forever — 1 madly in love with her, she 
fond of * dear old Dick,' as she might be fond of some big, 
faithful Newfoundland dog? Will my secret burst oat 
sooner or later, and frighten the dear little innocent girl out 
of her senses? I'm no match for the adopted daughter of 
the rich old miser. I suppose she'll be an heiress when he 
dies, and Dick Derwent's cake will be dough. She's in love 
with the Corsair, Ernest Mai tra vers, and a dozen other 
heroes of that ilk, and the sub-editor of the Rockltnge 
* Weekly News ' might as well love some * bright particular 
star,' etc., as the prospective heir of old Peter Fisher. It's 
destiny, I suppose," concluded Mr. Dick Derwent, with a 
second long-drawn sigh, " but it's doosidly hard." 

He strode along in gloomy meditation for the remainder 
of the way, and gloom was an element altogether foreign 
to Dick Derwent's good-humored face. But he was in love 
—hopelessly, helplessly in love — and surely the megrims is 
the normal state of hopeless lovers. 

He was in love with Estella Mallory, this youthful sub- 
editor of the Rockledge *' News," on whose boyish chin 
the down was still tender, and to him the glorious sun 
shone on nothing half so lovely as the pale, slender girl of 
iixteen, with the wonderful hazel eyes and hair. He was in 
love with the pretty Estella, and he kept his secret, and let 
concealment prey on his damask cheek; and he Drought her 
flowers, and fruit, and cheap jewelry, and unwholesome 
confectionery, and more unwholesome novels, by the whole- 
sale, and was her escort to the few places of amusement 
she was permitted to attend, and was her most intimate 
friend on earth. 

But she was not in love with him — not the least bit. He 
was always '* dear old Dick," and she was very fond of him, 



)• 



BSTELLA 8 HUSBAKD. 



21 



and he knew it, and that very frank fondness plunged 
him into the deepest abyss of despair. 

*' She is waiting for a modern Count Lara," Mr. Der« 
wont thought, moodily, '* a second Eugene Aram, a mag* 
uificent creature with black whiskers and a pale face, and 
a murder or two in his mind. That's the worst of devour- 
ing novels by the dozen. Where's the girl of sixteen will 
look twice at a fellow whose beard crops up in wliite and 
red stubbles, and who is obliged to wear patched panta- 
loons, when hur head is full of Sir Lancelots and Giaours, 
and grandiose chaps of that kind? She'll elope with some 
sixpenny barber from New York, the happy possessor of 
dyed haii ^ud mustache, and two melancholy dark eyes, and 
Dick Derwent may cut his throat, for all that she will 
care." 

The young man came to a halt as he reached this gloomy 
climax. The place of tryst was evidently gained. A dismal 
spot — a dozen yards beyond the house — on the verge of the 
windy cliffs, screened from the beach below by a clump of 
dwarf cedars. 

He glanced over the bushes, but the shore below was in 
darkness. A regiment might be in hiding under that 
beetling cliff and be none the wiser. 

A watery moon looked out from the scudding clouds, but 
cast no light on that eerie spot, and the man who leaned 
motionless against the rock, directly below him, was un- 
seen by Dick Derwent. 

The sub-editor of the Rockledge ** News " drew forth a 
big silver watch, and looked at the dial by the pallid glim- 
mer of the moon. 

'* Half past eight, and no sign of her yet. She'll keep 
me waiting and cooling my shins here an hour or so, as 
usual, and may be won't x.ome at all. What an unuttera- 
ble ass I am, to let a little, novel-reading chit of sixteen 
fool me like — Oh, by George, here she is!" 

His whole face lighted up — grew radiant. Plain Dick 
Derwent was transformed, in a second, by the magical 
power of love. Where v/as common sense, his reasoning 
and his railing nowi* Yonder came his darling, and all 
the world was forgotten ! 

She came breathlessly — flying over the marsh, a shawl 
over her head and grasped under her chin — the wind flutter- 
ing her cheap gray dress 



ESTKLLA's HUSBAITD. 



7 



'* Waiting Diok?'' she cried, panting. " I always k«0p 

Jou waiting, don't I? But I couldn't steal out any sooner, 
was afraid I couldn't come at all. " 
** But you're here now. Miss Mallory, and, as Mr. Toots 
remarks, the waiting is of no conseauence, thank youl 
Here are the books, four of 'em, enough to keep ypu read* 
me for one week. " 

^* Thank you, Jick! But, oh! where's the use? I won't 
be let read their.; I'll never be able tj return them — never 

get the chance to meet you here a^ain. Yes, Dick," with 
eepest solemnity, ** this is the last time you and I can 
ever meet." 

** Good gracious me!" exclaimed Mr. Dorwent, ** what 
on earth do you mean. Miss Mallory? The last time? 
You never mean to say that old curmudgeon is going to 
lend you away to school at last?" 

** No, Dick — ten times worse. I wish it was only 
lohool. He's going," in an awful whisper, ** to — marry— 
me!" 

** What!" cried Dick, in horror, ** marry you — hit 
niece — that old man? Estel!a — " 

** Oh, no, no! not liimself. He's going to marry me to 
another man. And you'd never guess the man, Dick— % 
that dreadful wretch. Captain Koysten Darrell." 

Dick Derwent recoiled a pace, with a face full of horror. 

** EstoUa!" 

** I don't know why it is, or what he wants to marry 
me for," continued Estella, rapidly; '* but he does. He was 
with uncle all the afternoon, and as soon as he went, uncle 
sent for me, and told me 1 must be married in a week, and 
to the captain of the ' Eaven.' Think of that, Dick — in 
a week! Of course 1 said no — flat — and uncle got into a 
rage and threatened to lock me up in the garret with the 
rats and beetles, and keep me on bread and water until I 
consented. Oh, Dick! what will become of me — what 
shall I do?" 

** See them both at the bottom of the bottomless pit!" 
burst out Mr. Derwent. "The cold-blooded old reptile! 
Why, if he searched the universe, he could hardly find a 
more desperate villain than that outlawed smuggler. 
Dare-devil Darrell! Marry you to him! Good heavens! 
he had better take and pitcn you, headforemost, into the 
lea yonder, and end your misery at once. Marry Roysten 



ESTRLI.A 8 HUSBAND. 



2S 



Darrein Not if I know mysolf, Essie; and 1 ratnor think 
I do." 

** Dear old Dick! 1 knew you would help me. What 
would ever becomo of me only for you? But what can 1 
do? To-morrow lie comes for his answer, and if the an- 
swer is * no,' up in the attic Til \m locked as sure as we 
stand here." 

'* Then don't give them the chance," said impotuou« 
Dick; "run away to-night. Does the hoary old repro- 
bate think he has gone back to the dark ages, to lock 
young and lovely females in the * deepest dungeon beneath 
the castle moat,* upon bread and water? Give them the 
slip, Essie — make youreelf ' thin air ' at once." 

' And go where?" asked the young lady, calmly. 
'* Look here, Dick, I've been thinking it over, and it's of 
no use. Uncle is tke richest man and the most powerful 
man in Rockledge. Half of the town are his tenants — 
all are afraid of him — none of them will willingly incur his 
displeasure. If 1 leave here, where will 1 go? who will re- 
ceive me? You have no homo to take me to, and you are 
the only friend 1 have got. I can't be a burden upon 
anybody, and I haven't the faintest idea of any way on 
earth to earn my own living. What am I going to do?" 

She clasped her hands, and looked earnestly up in his 
face. 

He could see the solemn darkness of those rare hazel eyes 
in the fitful moonlight. How pretty she was! how pretty 1 
how pretty! and how friendless and helpless! 

His heart leaped up with a great bound; his face turned 
dark red. The young fellow trembled from head to foot. 

** There is one way, Essie," he said, hoarsely — " only 
one that I can see, and I — I am afraid to name it. " 

" Afraid!" The dark eyes looked at him in wonder. 
** Afraid, Dick! What can it be?" 

** You must marry some one else, and at once! You are 
friendless and helpless, and in their power. 1 have no 
home to take you to, as you say; and, oh, Essie! I would 
give my heart's blood for you! But if, when the time 
comes which they appoint for your marriage with Roysten 
Darrell, you are the wife of some other man, then you can 
safely defy them both. A husband's authority is the 
strongest in the world." 

He spoke rapidly^ excitedly, almost incoherently, th« 



i 



4 



U 



S4 



BBTella's husband. 



poriirp'irfttion Branding like beads on his fliiBhod faoe. The 
great brown eyes gazed at him in over-increasing wonder. 

** But who am I to marry^, Dick? It is jumping out ol 
the frying-pan into the fire, isn't it? Who am 1 to marry?*' 

** Marry me!** 

The murder was out. Estci. , gave a little gn^p, then 
stood staring. But with that desperate header oume bacl-' 
Dick's courage, and into the subject he plunged headfore- 
most. 

** Marry me, Estella! I love you with all my heart and 
soul! I have loved you, 1 think, ever since 1 taw you first. 
I would die for your sake! I would give my life to make 
you happy! I never dared speak before. I would not dare 
speak now, but for what you huvc^ told mo. Oh, Essie! You 
hke me a little, don't you? Come with me, and be my 
wife!" 

** But, Dick — Oh, good gracious! who'd have thought 
it? 1 — I never was so — " 

But here Dick broke in, like an impetuous torrent 

** I am not worthy of you, Estella. You, so beautiful, 
«nd so much above me! But I love you so dearly, and I 
will devote my whol. life to making you happy. Don't 
say no, Esteliu! Think of your danger — think how I wor- 
ship you! Oh, surely it is better to marry me than to marry 
Roysten Darrell!" 

'* A great deal better," responded Miss Mallory, decis- 
ively. *' Oh, dear, dear! what an astonisher this is! 
The idea of your being in love with me all this time, and I 
never dreaming of it! Why, Dick," and here Miss Mal- 
lory set up a silvery laugh, ** 1 never thought it was in you 
to be in love at all. I thought you were wrapped up in 
that horrid printing office and that stupid Rockledge 
'News.'" 

" But now you know, and you — Oh, Essie, you like 
me a little, don't you?" cried Dick, piteously. 

** I like you a great deal," answered Estella, with de- 
licious candor. ** Better than anybody in the world. But 
I'm not a bit in love with you, you know, Dick." 

** And you'll marry me? Essie — Essie darling, say 
yes!" 

" Yes /" said Estella, promptly. " What fun it will be 
to outwit those two schemers! I'd marry you \t it was 



bbtella's husband. 



2C 



onlj for that. Bat, oh, dear! the idea of you and mu being 
marriud! Diok IKMWuiit, it's /oo ridiuulous.'* 

*' IJou'ltulk liko that, Essio.'' Dick said, his honust fuco 
all a^lovv with rupture. *' I'm tho happiest fellow on 
earth. 1 can't promise you a tlno hotiso, and rich dresses, 
and servants, just yet, but Til wcM-k for you like a galley- 
slave, and you — you won't mind a litLlo poverty at first, 
will you, darling?" 

**Afind!" said Eatella. ** I should think I was pretty 
well used to it. Look at that grim old prison. There isn t 
a cottage in Rockledgo half so meanly furnished. Look at 
my dress! Two of these cheap gray things is all I gel 
from one year's end to the other. Look ut our table — 
porridge and potatoes, and salt fish, and brown bread, and 
weak tea. Poverty! I've had sixteen years of that, Dick, 
and I should think, as I said before, 1 was pretty well 
used to it. " 

** My own dear Essie! It will go hard with me or we 
will do better than that. I will go in rags, so that you 
may be dressed. 1 will starve, so that you may have 
dainties. I will labor night and day, that those dear hands 
may never know toil. Oh, my dearest! how happy, how 
happy you have made me!" 

Gushing two-aud-twenty! delirious first lovel 

Miss Mtiiiory smiled complacently. This was as it should 
be — this was how she would be wooed — this was living a 
chapter out of one of her pet romances. 

True, the hero had a snub nose, and perennial smudges 
Ox printers' ink upon it, but still, for the time being, he 
was a hero, and Edgar Eavenswood could hardly do better. 

** That's all very nice Dick, and I'm very much obliged 
to you, 1 am sure. But how is it going to be managed? 
How are we going to be married?" 
^ ** In the only way — elope." 

** Yes," said Estella, calmly; ** but when? and how? Re- 
member, we have only a week. " 

** And a week is an abundance of time! Oh, my dar- 
ling, I am ready to go wild with delight when 1 think you 
will be all my own in one short week! Let me see— this is 
Thursday night. Essie, you must pretend to consent, and 
fix this nigh^ week for the ceremony." 

** But, Dick, I hate to tell lies! It is too mean." 

'* Unfortunately, white lies are indispensable on these 



■;♦ 



r 

i 



I' 



26 



bstella's husband. 



occasions. We must outwit these schemers. Meantime, i 
will make arrangements for our immediate union. I have 
a cousin, newly ordained, over at Leaport, who will be glad 
of a chance to oblige me, and who is not in the least in 
dread of the great Mr. Fisher. He will marry us, Essie, 
and next Tuesday shall be the night.*' 

'* And then, Dicii?'' 

** Then we will return to Rockledge, able to snap our 
fingera in the faces of Peter Fisher and Roysteu Darrell. 
If tljey dare say one word, I'll show them both up in next 
week's * News,* and make the state too hot to hold them. 
We \7ill board for awhile with Mrs. Daly, where I stop now, 
until I build a pretty little nest for my pretty little bird. 
You understand all this, Essie, and will obey? 

*' I will do anything to escape Roysten Darrell," replied 
the girl, with a shudder — ** anything in the wide world, 
Dick. Where shall I meet you on Tuesday night?" 

" Here — 1 will have a conveyance waiting on the road to 
take us to Leaport. My dearest girl, you will never repent 
your trust in me." 

** Dear old Dick, I know it. And now 1 must go. 
Judi<^^h locks up after nine, and it won't do for me to be 
missed. On Tuesday night, then, I will meet you here 
again. Until then, good-bye!" 

'* Good-bye, darling Essie!" He took her hand and 
kissed it rapturously. **' I think I am the happiest fellow 
on earth. If anything of importance occurs oetween this 
and Tuesday, 1 will write. DonH you think you could 
meot me again Sunday evening?" 

" I don't know I will if I can. Good-bye, and good- 
night!" 

She darted away with the last words, and was lost in the 
darkness before Richard Derwent could quite realize she 
kad gone. 

He turned slowly home«vard, with a glow at his heart 
like a halo around a full moon, all unconscious ol the 
silent listener under the cliff who had overheard every word. 



CHAPTER IV. 

::OYSTEN DARRELL COUNTERPLOTS. 

As Dick Derwent's footsteps died away, the eavesdropper 
emerged from the shadow into the fitful moonlight, and the 



■STELLA'S aCSBAND. 



27 



lofty statare and bold, handsome face of Captain Royrten 

Darrell was revealed. 

" So!'* he thought, with a long whistle, ** the game 
grows interesting — the plot thickens! A rival on the field, 
eh? Mr. Dick Derwent, sub-editor of the * Rockledge 
News/ thinks to outwit Dare-devil Darrell! How lucky 1 
stayed here, waiting for Briggs^ and how doubly lucky that 
Briggs hasn't come! My pretty little Estella, we'll see 
whether Roysten Darrell or Dick Derwent will win the 
game!" 

He strode over the beach, whistling '* My Love is but a 
Lassie Yet," and lost in thought. 

" There will be the devil to pay with Carlotta," he mused, 
his brow knitijag; '* she's as stubborn as a mule, and as 
jealous as — as a jealous woman — but she must yield! 1 
don't care a sou for the girl, and if I can get her to believe 
that, and dazzle her with the prospective fortune, she may 
hear to reason. But managing Estella will be a trifle to 
managing her. The very old demon is in her, 1 believe, 
when her spirit is up. " 

He walked along rapidly — a long, lonely walk. The 
watery glimmer of the pale moon lighted up the long- 
deserted beach, the waste of moaning sea, the beetling cliffs 
overhead. He walked along for upward of a mile over the 
shingly shore, passing the spot where the " Baven " lay 
rising and falling lazily on the long groundswell. 

No human habitation was in sight, no living thing met 
his view — the sobbing night wind, the moaning sea, the 
pallid moonlight, had the ghastly stretch of shore all to 
themselves. 

But Roysten Darrell hastened along, with the air of a 
man who knows where he is going. Another half mile is 
passed, and then the first sign of human habitation came 
m view. And yet, was it a habitation? A low, ruinous 
black building, dark and deserted, known as the " Den " 
to the fishermen along the coast, and popularly supposed 
to be haunted — an unspeakably ghastly place to be inhab 
ited. 

No ray of light came from its boarded windows, no sound 
from its gloomy walls, but at the door of this dreary ruin 
the captain of the " Raven " stopped, and applying his lips 
to the key-hole, whistled shrilly three times. 

The signal was almost immediately answered. Bolts shot 



r 



V 

I' 

'I 



'i 



11 estella's husband. 

back, chains rattled, the door opened cautiously, aizd a 
bearded face looked out into the night. 

** You, cap'n?" said a bass voice. 

** I, Marlow. Let me in. Is Monks here, and the 
rest?" 

** Come half an hour ago, and enjoying theirselves. 
Don't you hear 'em? They'll bring the vultures down on 
the * Den ' with their infernal row." 

The captain strode in; the door was again secured. He 
stood in a long passage-way dimly lighted by an oil-lamp, 
and the noise of many voices singing in the distance reached 
him plainly. 



u 



There's danger on yon heaving sea, 

There's lightning in yon cloud; 
And hark the music, marinersl 

The wind is piping loud. 
The wind is pipng loud, my boys; 

The lightning flashes free; 
The world of waters is our home. 

And merry men are we!" 

**And merry men are we!" yelled a dozen nproarious 
voices. ** And here's the captain, the merriest of the lot! 
A long life and a merry one to the captain of the 
* Raven!' " 

The toast was drunk with a perfect screech of enthusi- 
asm. Captain Darrell stood in the door- way, calmly re- 
garding the scene. A large, vault-like apartment filled 
with casks and bales—too plainly contraband — rude benches 
for seats, a ruder table in the center, and an oil-lamp 
swinging above, dully lighting all. 

Around the table, noisily drinking and playing cards, 
over a dozen men were seated — stalwart, ferocious fellows, 
all armed to the teeth, rolling out oaths and tobacco juice 
in perpetual volleys. 

Too much noise, my lads — too much noise!" said Roy- 
sten Darrell. " You'll fetch the revenue sharks down upon 
you before you know it. Monks, a word with you." 

One of the men arose — a black-bearded, piratical-looking 
desperado — and followed his tall commander into a second 
passage darker than the first. 

*' Anything new, cap'n? Is Briggs coming for his vent- 
ure to-night? 

" I missed Briggs. Look here. Monks, you go to Rock- 



istella's husbakd. 



3» 



ledge sometimes; do you know a chap there called Dick 
Derwent — printer by trade?'' 

** A tall, slim youth — part editor of the * News?' As 
well as I know myself, cap'n." 

" Good! lie is in my way, Monks — you understand? 1 
have a little project on foot with which he may interfere.'* 

** What! that milksop? Whew!" whistled Monks. 

** Milksops make mischief sometimes. Keep your ey© 
on him, Monks. On Monday night next he must be se- 
cured without fail, and without noise. You hear?" 

'* All right! I'm good ior a dozen Dick Derwents. 
Where are we to fetch him? To the Den, or on board the 
* Raven?' " 

** On board the * Raven.' See that it's all done on the 
quiet. Monks — 1 don't want a stir made. That is all — you 
oan go back to your game." 

He turned away, and walked down the dark passage. 
Before he reached the end, a door opened, a stream of light 
poured forth, and there was a woman's glad cry. 

** I knew your step, Roysten. Who would have looked 
for you so soon? Come in — supper is ready and waiting." 

Two warm arms went round his neck; two impetuous 
lips met his; two strong little hands drew him in and shut 
the door. 

** And I am as hungry as u bear, Carlotta; so let us have 
it as soon as may be, my girl. " 

It was a smaller room than the first — and surprisingly 
cosy and comfortable for such a place. A carpet covered 
the floor, the chairs were cushioned, a plump, white bed 
stood In a corner, there were pictures on the wall, books 
on the shelves, a fire in a little cook-stove, and a mirror 
over the rude mantel. A large lamp lighted it brightly, 
glittering on a well spread supper-table and on the small, 
slender figure of the woman who stood beside it. 

A very small and slender figure — a little dark creature 
— with great black eyes, jet-black hair, and a dark, olive 
skin. A darkly beautiful creature, with a passionate, 
southern face, dressed in a rich robe of crimson silk, and 
with jewels flashing on her thin, dark hands. 

Roysten Darrell flung off his loose great-coat, and seated 
himself at the table. The little Creole beauty poured out 
a cup of fragrant chocolate, and pushed all the dainties on 
ihe board before him. 



I 

( 



I 



M 



EfflELLA'S HUSBAND. 



" 1 have news for you to-night, Carlotta," ht said, plung- 
ing at once, with a reckless rapidity that was characteristic 
of the man, into his unpleasant revelations. " I am going 
to be married." 

The great black eyes dilated — the thin, red lips sprung 
apart. 

" Whatf 

** I am going to be married, Carlotta — married to a great 
heiress, my girl. A little, wishy-washy school-girl, fresh 
from the nursery, whom I have never seen six times in my 
life. What do you think of that?'' 

*' 1 don't understand," the woman Carlotta said, her 
dark face paling strangely. ** You are joking with Car- 
lotta. 1 am your wife." 

" So you are, my beauty, and there is a law prohibiting 
men, in this narrow-minded country, from having more 
wives than one. But the law and lloysten Darrell have 
been at loggerheads this many a day, and it's rather late to 
respect its majesty now. Yes, I'm going to be married, 
and in a week, and to an heiress, and we'll take the little 
bride for her honey-moon trip on board the * Eaveu;' and 
when th« * Raven ' weighs anchor out in the cove yonder 
again, I will be a widower, and the sole possessor of the 
late Mrs. Darrell 's fortune." 

And then, while he eat and drank at his leisure, Roysten 
Darrell retold the plot laid by Peter Fisher for securing th© 
wealth of his ward, and retold that second plot he had over- 
heard beneath the cliff. 

** I'll secure the heiress, and foil Mr Dick Derwent," 
the captain of the '* Raven " concludeu, finishing his meal. 
** Come, Carlotta, sit here on my knee, and listen to rea- 
son. There is no need for you to wear that white, scared 
face; 1 wouldn't give my little gypsy wife for a dozen heir- 
esses. But to win half a million of money at one swoop, 
that is not to be sneezed at. This pale, sickly girl of six- 
teen will never come back alive, and you and 1, my darling 
Carlotta, will share her wealth, and live in clover for the 
rest of our lives." 

** Will you murder her, Roysten?" the woman said, with 
dilated eyes. 

** Murder her? No—I wouldn't see her worst eneniv do 
that. Bu^ seasickness, and horror of me, and the loss of 
her lover, and our wild life, will murder her. Depend 



l^; 



EITELLA'S HUSBAKD. 



31 



upon it, the little bride will never come back aJive, or if 
■he does, only to get a divorce, and free herself from the 
husband she hates with every penay of her fortune. Come, 
Carlotta, say you consent, and let ua consider the matter 
settled. " 

The woman clasped her arms passionately round iiis 
neck, and laid her dark face on his bosom with a dry, 
choking sob. 

** Could I refuse you anything in the world, my love, 
my husband — anything in the wide world? Has poor Car- 
lotta any will but yours? But, oh, Roysten! it would be 
easier to die than see you even for an hour wedded to an- 
other!" 



r- 



Estella Mailory reached the house just in time to escape 
being locked out. Old Judith turi^ed upon her with no 
very pleasant face. 

** And where have you been, pray, this hour »l the 
night? I thought you were safely up in yonr room. What 
will Mr. Fisher say to this gaddiug?" 

*' 1 wasn't gadding, and Mr. Fisher will say nothing. 
Grandmother Grumpy, for you won't tell him. Good- 
night, Judith; if you took a mouthful of fresh air yourself 
every evening, you would be none the worse for it. People 
grow yellow and cross from moping forever in-doors." 

She ran off to her room, singing a snatch of a song, her 
books hidden beneath her shawl. Like all the rooms in 
the house, Estella's chamber was long and low, and dark 
and moldering; but the girl had brightened it a little with 
muslin curtains, and a gay patchwork quilt to her bed, and 
flimsy little fixings of crochet-work, and books and cheap 

Erints, mostly gifts from Dick. _ She sat up reading until 
er caudle sputtered and died out; and then she went to 
bed to dream how cleverly she was going to outplot the 
plotters. 

Roysten Darrell came next day, and was closeted for 
over an hour with Mr. Fisher. Then Estella was sum- 
moned, and went down-stairs in soma trepidation to face 
the stalwart wooer she dreaded. 

" And how is my little Estella?'* cried the captain of 
the ** Raven," las brilliant blue eyes sparkling with mis- 
ehievous light ** Grown out of all knowledge, and prat- 



i 



I. 



82 



estella's husband. 






)! is! 



tier than a picture. Come here, my dear, and give me a 
Ities." 

But Miss Mallory drew herself up, her great dark eyes 
flashing, and turned her back upon him in haughty disdain. 

** You sent for me, Mr. Fisher," she said, coldly. 

** Yes, my dear — for your answer, you know,'' replied 
old Peter Fisher, his wicked old face distorted into an evil 
smile. *' Captain Darrell wishes to be married next Thurs- 
day night — the * Raven ' sails on Saturday. What do you 



say 



V* 



'' No!'' said Estella, promptly. 

*' All right!" exclaimed Roysten Darrell. " Then we 
shall be obliged to use a little gentle force. You'll see that 
all the wedding-gear is prepared, Mr. Fisher, and when 
Thursday night comes, I dare say Miss Mallory will change 
her mind. Until then it is useless to trouble her; but I 
think she had better remain in the house as much as pos- 
sible. Brides-elect never show, I believe, for a week be- 
forehand. That will do, my dear. If you won't consent, 
and if you won't give me that kiss, perhaps you will go 
back to your room. " 

** Not at your bidding," flashed Estella, defiantly. 
** Have you anything more to say to me, uncle?" 

" No! Be off; and be thankful 1 don't rope's-end you 
for your impertinence, miss!" 

Estella obeyed, flushed and angry, and from her win- 
dow, soon after, saw Captain Darrell striding over the 
marsh. And he came no more. 

Saturday and Sunday passed, and she was left in peace, 
but, to her dismay, a prisoner. Old Judith had orders not 
to allow her to cross the threshold, and old Judith was a 
very dragon of fidelity to her grim master. 

Monday came, and with it a ray of hope to Estella. The 
butcher's boy, from Rockledge, bringing the meat for din- 
ner, brought also a tiny note for Miss Mallory. 

Estella chanced to be alone in the kitchen when he came, 
Judith being upstairs over her chamber-work. The note 
was in Dick's hand. With aery of delight she tore it open 
and read: 

'* On Tuesday night, at half past nine, meet me at the 
old place. All is ready. Don't fail. " 






ESTELLA*S HUSBAl^D. 



86 



That was ill; bufc it was Dick's writing, and her heart 
^%ve a great bound. 

** I'll meet hira, if I have to jump out of the window!" 
she thought. " Marry Roysten Darrell, indeed! Not if 1 
were to be hung, drawn and quartered for refusing." 

Tuesday came — a wet, windy day. All the morning 
Estella remained shut up in her room; all the afternoon 
she wandered about the house, in a fever of anxiety. 
Night closed down early — wetter ana windier than the day. 

Fortune seemed to favor her. Judith was laid up with 
rheumatism, and obliged to go to bed at dark. 

Groanmg with pain, she ordered Estelii* up to her room, 
locked the house door, and hobbled ofE to her own. 

Nine o'clock, and all was still. Twenty minutes past^ 
and nothing to be heard but the tumult of wind and rain. 

Wrapped in her shawl, and wearing a hat and thick veil, 
Estella stole down-stairs, unfastened the house door with 
trembling fingers, and stood out in the wet darkness— free! 

She did not pause a second. Heedless of wind, and rain, 
and pitchy darkness, she fled to the place of tryst. 

Was Dick there? Yes; a man stood dimly outlined 
against the dark background, waiting. 

** Estella," he said, in a whisper, ** is it you?" 

** It is I, Dick. Quick! I may be missed." 

He took her hand and hurried her on. A buggy stood 
waiting on the road. He lifted her in, sprung to the seat 
beside her, and drove off like the wind. 

There v^as no time to talk — they flew along too quickly 
—and the uproar of the storm would have drowned their 
voices. 

Dick's cap was pulled over his nose, and his coat-collar 
turned up, so that his face was completely hidden. 

For nearly an hour they rattled alor^; then he pulled 
up suddenly — before a light glimmering m the dark. 

** This is the place," he said, hr.rriedly. ** The clergy- 
man is waiting. Quick!" 

He drew her along — into a house — into a room. A 
smoky lamp only made the darkness visible, and through 
her veil the frightened girl saw, dimly, a man dressed as a 
clergyman, and two others, all talking in a group. 

** There is no time to lose," said Estella's companion. 
'* We may be pursued. Marry us at once, and lei us be 
off." 

2 









M 
Pi 



*■'-'■ if- 






].« 



. I 



H 



estella's husband. 



He never removed his cap; she did not put up her veil 
She was trembling from head to ». The wild night* 
journey — this gloomy room — these strange men! She wai 
frightened, and quivering all over. 

The minister opened hifi book; the ceremony began. 

But Estella's head was whirling — all was confusion and 
indistinct. She answered, ** I will I" vagufily. She saw 
a ring slipped on her finger, as we see things in a dream. 
Then all was over, and she was out in the wet night once 
more, flying along the road, and this was her husband by 
her side! 

They sped along. Faint and frightened, she cowered in 
a corner, while the man beside her never uttered a word. 
On and on they went, stopping with a jerk at last — where, 
Estella did not know. 

** Here we are!" said the silent bridegroom. ** Home 
at last!" 

He lifted her out — bore her along like a whirlwind to- 
ward a house — opened the door and ushered her into a dark 
hall. 

" This way," he said. ** They have forgotten to light 
up. Here are the stairs — look out!" 

He half led, half carried her up the stairs, opened a 
door at the top, and disclosed a lighted room. 

** At home!" he cried. ** Throw up your veil, my 
dear little wife, and give me that kiss now /" 

That voice! She did fling back her veil, in wild affright. 
Oh, where was she? This familiar room — the dreary par- 
lor of Fisher's Folly; those well-known faces — old Peter 
Fisher and Judith — grinning at her across the table. 

"You thought to outwit us," chuckled the old man,, 
grimly. ** We have turned the tables and outwitted yoUr 
My dear Mrs. Roysten Darrell, let me be the first to offer 
my congratulations!" 

She wheeled round, with a smothered cry, and looked at 
the man beside her. The cap was flung off, the coat-collar 
turned down. 

Tall and handsome, with the face of a smiling demon, 
there stood the man she had married — Koysten Darrein 



li 



bbtella's husband. 



at 



CHAPTER V. 

IN THE ATTIC. 

It was « scene worthy a melodrama. 

For an instant dead silence reigned. The triumphani 
plotters stood looking at their victim, and she — poor, 
snared bird — stood paralyzed, her great brown eyes, wide 
and wild, fixed in unutterable horror upon the man she had 
married. 

He was the first to break the silence. With a loud 
laugh, he strode toward her, his arms extended. 

Ha! ha! ha! how the Ifttle one stares! Am I the 
Gorgon's head, my dear, and have I turned you to stone? 
Gome, my little brown-eyed bride, it is time your blissful 
bridegroom had a kiss!'' 

Another stride toward her — then Estella awoke. With 
a wild, wild cry, that rang through the house, she flung up 
both arms and fled to the furthest corner of the room. 

** Keep off!" she shrieked, " you pirate! you murderer! 
you second Cain! If you touch me, I shall die!" 

Roysten Darrell laughed again — his deep, melodious, 
bass laugh. 

** Hard names, my dear, to begin the honey-moon with. 
Gome, you must forgive our little trick — all's fair in love, 
you know. You would have tricked me, remember, if you 
could — you and that little whipper-snapper of a printer. 
X don't bear any malice, but 1 really couldn't stand by and 
«ee you throw yourself away on a contemptible little jack- 
anapes like that. Come, come, Estella — let by-gones be 
by-gones! You're my wife now, as fast as church and state 
can make you, and the only thing you can do is to submit 
to the inevitable and consent to make me the happiest of 
men. Come, my dear — come! Get out of that comer and 
pay you forgive me!" 

Again he came toward her, and again that frenzied 
shriek rang through the house. 

* * Don't come near me ! don't touch me ! If you lay your 
finger upon me, I shall go mad! Eoysten Darrell, I will 
n«yer forgive you to my dying day!" 

" Oh, yes, you will, my dear! Don't be unchristian. 
Ton can't blame me for loving you to distraotion, such « 



. ( 









mi 

'it" ' 



i! 



I ) 



80 



BSTELLA'S HUciliAND. 



pretty little girl as you are; you can't blame me for OTer* 
nearing your little conspiracy with Mr. liichard Derwent; 
and least of all can you blame me for proving myself the 
more skillful plotter of the two. Think better of it, my 
dear little wife; don't stand glaring upon me there, as 
though I were an African gorilla, out hear to reason. 
We're married; I'm your husband, and it's a wife's solemn 
duty to love, honor and obey her husband, if I know any- 
thing of my catechism and the marriage service. Come, 
Mra Darrell — come! You must yield, sooner or later- 
then why not at once?" 

For the third time he approached, and for the third 
time the girl's frenzied soreoms echoed through the house. 
Even Roysten Darrell drew back, appalled. 

" The devil's in it!" he muttered. " Who would think 
she would raise such a row? 1 believe in my soul she will 

fo mad if I touch her. Fisher, she splits my ears — make 
er stop that infernal yelling. " 

Old Peter Fisher, his little eyes glaring with wrath, strode 
forward and seized her arm in a vicious grip. 

*' You screaming hyena, if you don't stop that noise this 
instant, I'll choke you! Stop it, I say — stop it! Do you 
hear? Do you want to drive us deaf, you confounded, 
cross-grained little wild-oat?" 

** Save me from that man!" cried Estella, almost beside 
herself — ** save me from him, and I will do what you say? 
Oh, Uncle Fisher, save me — save me! If you let him come 
near me, 1 shall die!" 

** Die, then!" exclaimed Uncle Fisher, giving her a vin- 
dictive shake — " the sooner the bet^.er! Of all the plagues 
of Egypt — of all the plagues that ever were heard of — there 
never was invented such a plague as girls! Stand there, 
you screeching vixen, and listen to me! That man's your 
husband — do you hear me, mistress? Your hushand — 
the master of your destiny — your owner for life. Fm not 
going to keep another man's wife here. Drop that howl- 
ing, and get ready and go with the man you have married." 

** I never married him!" Estella wildly cried. ** I would 
have died ten thousand deaths sooner! 1 thought it was 
Dick Derwent^ and he knows it. 1 will never go with him 
— 1 will never speak to him as long as he lives! If you let 
him lay one finger upon me, I will kill myself — I will. 
Uncle Fisher — and my blood will be on your head!'" 



\»f 



■■» 



I 



estella's hlskand. 



She spoke and looked like one demented — her fare j^liast- 
]y pale, her eyes starting from their sockets, her brown liair 
all wild and disheveled about her. 

The old sinner recoiled, and stood staring at her in dis- 
may. 

" I really believe you uwuhl, you little tigress!'* he ex- 
claimed. "Barrel!, what, in the name of all the fiends, 
are we to do with this exasperating minx?** 

Captain Darrell shrugged his broad fchoulders, and 
lounged easily up against the chimney-piece. 

" She's excited now, vion ami — she'll think better of it 
by and by. Didn't 1 hear you speak about locking up 
Miss Mallory, upon bread and water, not long ago? Try 
that cooling prescription with Mrs. Roysten l)arrell for a 
day or two, and see how it works. It is rather trying to 
begin the honey-moon — widowed; but what can't be cui-ed, 
etc. Meantime, with your good permission, I'll light a 
cigar, and go home. " 

He took out an inlaid cigar-case, selected a weed, and 
coolly lighted it. 

"Your wife shall go with you, Darrell I" Peter Fisher 
exclaimed, with flashmg eyes. " By all the furies, I am 
not to be baffled by a girl in her teens! Stand up here, you 
diabolical little viper, and hear me for the last time. Will 
you go with your husband, or will you not?" 

** He is no husband of mine, and 1 will be torn to pieces 
before 1 go with him!" Estella answered, wildly. 

" And so you shall — for your choice lies between going 
with him, or being torn to pieces by the rats in the attic. 
1 swear by all that is holy, girl, if you refuse to go with 
Roysten Darrell, the moment the door closes upon him, up 
garret you go, to be starved and eaten alive by an army of 
rats! Take your choice — freedom and a bridegroom, or 
starvation and the rats." 

" Better rats than murderers!" the girl cried, trembling 
from head to foot. " Anythiuf/ is belter than that dread- 
ful man! I am not his wife, and you know it. I can die, 
but 1 can never, never go with him!" 

" Be it so, then!" exclaimed the old man, in a voice of 
suppressed fury. " You have chosen. Roysten Darrell, 
go! She shall abide by her choice. Judith, woman, light 
the captain out, and then go to bed. By this time to- 
morrow night, my lady, your hot blood will hardly bouiiil 



'J ■''{ 



( 



I' 



ESTELLA'-fl HUSBAND. 



80 high. 1 know what a night among rats is like, if yoa 
don't. Away with you, Darrell! Your bride will not go 
with YOU to-night." 

** One laat ciiance, Estella,** said Roysten Darrell, start- 
ing up and drawing near. ** Come with mo! You are my 
wile, and Til treat you well — I will, upon Uie honor of an 
outlaw I Come — you'll find me better company than the 
rata in the attic." 

But at his approach the shrieks broke out again, and she 
fled away to the remotest end of the room. 

*' Go!" said Peter Fiaher, sternly; ** waste no mora 
words. I'll make her repent her obstinacy to the last 
day of her life. Light him out, Judith, and — you needn't 
come back. " 

** Good-night, then," said the captain of the ** Raven," 
swinging round, " since you will have it so. I will live in 
the hope of a more favorable answer to-morrow. Good- 
night, Fisher! Temper justice with mercy — give her a 
light and a switch to scare oS the rats. " 

He was gone. Judith followed him out with a candle. 
From first to last she bad not uttered a word. She had 
stood looking about, as grim and unmoved as a Chinese 
idol. 

^* Now, then, mistress!" exclaimed the old man, with a 
diabolical grin; " now for your choice — now for the attic, 
now for the rats! Come!" 

Estella held up her clasped hands and white, wild face. 

** Have pity on me!" she cried. ^'Oh, Uncle Fisher, 
don't — dov?t shut me up in ^^hat dreadful place!" 

** The choice is your own, he said, furiously clutching 
her by the arm. ** You it^ould have it, and, by Heaven, 
up you go! I will teach you what it is to defy and enrage 
me ! Stop that whining. I won't have it Up you go, 
though an angel were to descend from realms celestial to 
plead your cause. Come!" 

He grasped her furiously, and dragged her along. She 
struggled and screamed, but old as he ^vas, her strength 
was as nothing to the roused old tiger. He drew her to the 
door, and met Judith returning with the light. 

" Go on before!" thundered her master. ** It is as 
much as 1 can do to drag this vixen up." 

Without a word, without a look, the woman turned to 
obey, deaf to the victim's wild cries. 



EtiTELLA's HUSBAND. 



39 



If 



as 
to 



'* Save me, Judithl Oh, .Tiidithl Judith: help mo! 
Don't let him look me in that awful pluuel Oh, Judith, 
help me! help niu!" 

lUit Judith stalked grimly on, neither looking to the 
right nor left. 

"Aha!" chuckled EstoUa'H tormentor, '* you begin to 
dread it already, do you? Well, it's not too late yet. 
(Shall I send Judith out after Koynten Darrell?" 

" No — no — no! a thousand times no! liut oh, Uncle 
Fisher, pity me — save me! For the dear Lord's sake, don't 
lock mo in the attic!" 

She might as well have spoken to the wall, lie beat 
down the struggling hands and face furiously, and dragged 
her after him by main force. Past her room, up the creak- 
ing, rotting attic stairs — up amid dust and darkness, and 
silence and desolation. 

** Throw open the door, Judith," ordered Peter Fisher, 
*' until I fling her in!" 

She obeyed. A rush of cold air came out and almost 
extinguished the light. Estella had one glimpse of the 
pitchy blackness^ of the horrible creatures scampering nois- 
ily over the floor, of the bloated black beetles and spiders 
on the wall, and then she was thrust in headlong, the door 
drawn violently to, the key turned, and she was locked in 
the attic. Her last long scream might have curdled their 
blood, so like that of a maniac did it sound. 

Old Judith turned to her master, and spoke for the first 
time. 

*' That girl will be raving mad by morning," she said, 
with a stony stare. 

"Let her," snarled Peter Fisher. "She deserves it. 
No one in this house shall defy me with impunity! You 
mind your own business, old beldame, and go to bed. " 

He snatched the light from her, gave her a vicious push 
as a hint to precede him, and followed her down the grimy 
stairs. She spoke no more. She stalked on ahead, silent 
and grim. But at her own chamber-door she paused, 
turned, favored her master with a second death's-head 
stare, opened her lips, and spoke: 

" '^^he girl will be mad or dead by morning! Mind, I've 
war»*^ you!" 

V'^iore he oould speak, she had disappeared, slammed 
tlm w^oor and locked it in his face. 



♦ V 



r 



' 1 





'1 

I 



I' ! i II! 



40 



estella's husband. 



» 



** I'd like to lock you with her, you brimstone witch! 
snarled the old man, viciously, his little eyes glaring. 
'* Let her go mad! What do I care? Mad or sane, she is 
married, and Monsieur the Count shall pay me many a 
bright gold piece before he gets his daughter. '* 

He walked on to his room and went grimly to bed, and 
Estella was alone in the attic. 

Alone, in the inexpressible horrors of that most horrible 
prison. The wind shrieked madly; the rain beat in tor- 
rents upon the roof and poured in through a dozen aper- 
tures; the blackness was something palpable —something 
to be felt; the raw cold pierced to the none; the sea roared 
like a thousand wild beasts let loose. Without and within, 
horrors and tempest untold. 

She stood in the spot where the old man had thrust her, 
benumbed. The uproar without, so plainly heard here, 
deafened and stunned her at first. But only for a few mo- 
ments; then she awoke — awoke fully to the greater horrors 
within. 

She could hear the rats scampering back with the noise 
of a troop of horses. She could see the glitter of their 
fierce eyes in the dark; she could hear their shrill cries. 
She seemed to see again the myriads of loathsome, crawl- 
ing things that blackened the walls, and now — and now 
the rats were upon her! 

Her shrieks broke out afresh — mad, mad shrieks of in- 
sanest terror. But they were upon her — crawling over her 
feet, beneath her clothes; more than once their sharp 
teeth fastened in her flesh. She could not shake them off. 
She rushed to the door; she beat upon it madly; her hands 
were all cut, and torn, and bleeding; her screams were 
something fearful to hear. 

In vain — all in vain! Still they came — fierce and count- 
less; they swarmed around her — upon her; they bit fiercely 
at the yielding flesh. One last, agonizing cry, and then 
she fell, face forward, among them — dead to them and all 
mortal agony. 



CHAPTER VI. 

** SICK AND IN PRISON." 

Old Judith had gone to her room, but r:ot to bed. Be- 
neath that grim, iron surface, somewhere beat a woman's 



estella's husband. 



41 



heart, or the callous remains of one. She knew what the 
attic of Fisher's Folly was like; she knew the horrors of 
darkness and hordes of fierce rata. She sat down on the 
edge of her bed> and listened to the mad uproar of wind, 
and rain, and sea. 

'* Fit night for such a marriage/' she thought — ** fit 
night for such demons' babes as Roysten Darreil and Peter 
Fisher. Brave men both to pit themselves against one lit- 
tle, helpless girl — both heroes each! Will I sit here and 
let that child go raving mad up there? She called upon 
me for help, in her agony, and I — 1 had a daughter once. " 

The grim old face worked. Another wild gale shook the 
old house, rattled noisily at doors and windows, and beat 
the rain in a deluge against the walls. 

'* A horrible night," Judith thought, with a shudder; 
** a horrible house to live in, and horrible wretches to live 
among. And I am as bad as the worst if 1 sit here and see 
that child go mad. No, Peter Fisher, turn me out to- 
morrow upon the cold world, if you will — 1 will defy and 
disobey you to-night." 

She seized her candle, strode to the door, and up the 
creaking stairs to the attic — just in time, and no more, to 
hear that last, frenzied shriek and that dull, heavy fall. 

"Estella!" she called, rattling at the door, ^'Estella, 
child! it is Judith. Speak to me. I am going to break 
the lock and let you out." 

But there was no reply. Only the frantic raving of the 
tempest, the noisy scampering of the rats. 

** Lord have mercy upon us sinners!" cried the old wom- 
an, remorse-stricken. *^ She has fallen in a dead laint^ 
and the rats are eating her alive!" 

She looked around; a heavy bar of iron lay among a heap 
of rubbish in a corner of the passage. To seize this, to 
batter down the old lock, was hardly the work of three 
minutes. 

But the noise had reached the keen ears of the master of 
Fisher's Folly. Before her work was done she heard the 
shuffling tread of his slippered feet, and saw his fierce, 
wrathful old face glaring upon her from the head of the 
stairs. 

" What in the fiend's name are you about, you hag?" 
he cried, furiously. ** Have you gone mad?" 

No," said Judith, never pausing in her work^ '* bat 



i 



'M 



4( 



42 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



'H 



li! 
ii 



M,^ll! 



Jour yictim has. Pm bad enough^ the Lord knows, or 
'd not be housekeeper for tea years to an incarnate devil 
like you^ Peter Fisher; but I'll not stand by and see a 
murder done, while 1 have hands to help or a voice to cry 
out.'* 

The old man rushed forward, his eyes literally blazing 
with fury. 

** ru throttle you, you diabolical old hag! Stop that 
this instant and go back to your room!" 

But Judith raised her formidable bar, with an unflinch- 
ing face. 

** Don't come near me, Mr. Fisher — don't try to stop 
me! I'm not often roused, but I'm the more dangerous 
when 1 am ! I'll take this child out of her prison, or I'll 
know the reason why! Stand back — I'm not afraid of 
you! Stand back, I say, and let me work!" 

He recoiled, absolutely frightened. In all his ten years' 
experience of her he had never seen that look on the gaunt 
face of his housekeeper before. It was dangerous to thwart 
her now. She beat down the rusty lock with one last blow, 
and flung the old door wide. 

** You shall pay for this to-morrow, you beldame!" he 
hissed, in impotent rage. 

But she never heedS him. Still grasping her bar in one 
hand, and her light in the other, she stalked in, scaring the 
army of rats. 

There, face downward on the floor, lay the unhappy vic- 
tim, the blood oozing from a deep cut in her forehead. 

** Come in, Peter Fisher," Judith called, ** and look at 
your <vork!" 

The old man advanced, recoiled, turned the color of yel- 
low parchment at sight of the flowing blood. 

** Good heavens!" he gasped. " Is she dead?" 

'* It is to be hoped so. Better death than madness. 
Will I leave her here to the rats — they will soon finish their 
work — and go back down-stairs?" 

'* No, no, no! Judith, I never meant to kill her. 1 
didn't think she would — Why, she has only fainted." 

For Judith had raised her in her strong old arms like a 
feather's weight. 

'* Stand aside," she said, grimly. " Your work is done, 
and you may be proud of it. The moment she dies I'll 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAin). 



48 



walk straight to Rockledge and denounce yon as lier mur- 
derer. Stand aside, and let mo pass. " 

He obeyed, shaking as if with palsy. 

The sight of that death-like face, covered with blood, 
struck an icy chill to the marrow of his bones. 

** If she should be dead!'' he thought. " What will be- 
come of me if she should be dead?" 

He followed the housekeeper down-stairs to the door of 
Estella's room, but she would not permit him to enter. 

** Go to your own," she said, authoritatively. " If she 
is dead you will know it soon enough." 

She was mistress of the situation, and he obeyed her liko 
a whrpped child. 

** If she should be dead!" The horrible thought kept 
repeating itself over and over again in his mind. ** If she 
is dead, what will become of me f" 

She was not dead! Judith laid her upon the bed, 
sponged the blood off of that icy face, applied hartshorn, 
burned feathers, cold water and smart slapping, and after 
more than an hour brought back the fluttering breath. 
The eyelids quivered an instant, the blue lips parted, then 
the great, dark eyes opened and looked up. 

** Judith," she said, " what is it? Where am 1?" 

** In your own room, my dear. Here, keep still, and 
take this warm drink." 

But she pushed the drink away, her eyes growing wild 
with horror. 

** And the rats!" she cried. " Oh, Judith, the rats! the 
rats! Save me from them — save me! save me! save me!" 

She grasped the old woman, shriek after shriek ringing 
frantically through the room. Suddenly her hands relaxed, 
the screams ceased, and she fell back, once more insensi- 
ble, upon her pillow. 

Morning was breaking, rainy and raw, before she^awoke 
from that second swoon, and then only to rave in t^e wild 
delirum of brain fever. 

She tossed upon her hot pillow, flinging her arms about, 
her cheeks flushed burning red, her eyes glittering, her 
tongue running at random. 

As Judith opened the door, in the gray, chill dawn, she 
beheld her master, huddled in a strange, distorted attitude 
of fear, in the passage, waiting, listening. 



5 



if 









44 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



m '■ 



um 



' 



<4 



Will she die, Judith?" he whined, piteously. ** Oh, 
Judith, will she die?*' 

** Listen to her," said Judith, calmly. *' Does that 
sound as though she would live? If you want breakfast 
this morning, Mr. Fisher, you may get it for yourself. 
I'm going out." 

** Where?" 

** To Bockledge, for a doctor." 

** Must we have a doctor? Consider the expense, Ju- 
dith! I'm a poor man, and doctors are frightfully expen- 
sive. Must we have a doctor?" 

He caught her dress with that piteous whine — changed 
in a few hours from a savage tyrant to a cringing slave 
through the influence of abject terror. 

The woman plucked her skirt away, with a look of grim 
contempt. 

'* Yes, we must have a doctor, and medicine, and a 
nurse, and port wine, and beef -tea, and chicken broth, and 
jellies," she replied, with stony satisfaction; ** and you 
shall pay for all, and be thankful if they save you from the 
gallows. I don't think you will be in such a hurry to lock 
any one up in garrets again, Mr. Fisher." 

'* Don't tell the doctor about that!" exclaimed Peter 
Fisher, in a fresh paroxysm of terror. " You don't know 
what he might do if he heard it. And the girl may die! 
Don't tell him, Judith — my good Judith — and I — 1 11 be 
a friend to you all your life!" 

Judith's only reply was a look of " ineffable scorn," as 
she stalked by, in stony silence, to her own apartment. 

Through rain and wind, in the bleak dawn, the old wom- 
an made her way to Eockledge, routed out the most experi- 
enced doctor in the place, and sent him in his gig to Fish- 
er's Folly. 

For herself, she strode back, unmindful of wet and mud, 
«nd arrived just as the physician was leaving. 

** A serious attack of brain fever," the doctor said, 
gravely — '* a very serious attack. Pray what shock Lab 
Miss Mallory received to bring it on?" 

Old Peter Fisher fidgeted and looked everywhere but in 
his questioner's stern eyes. 

"How can I tell?" he said, querulously. '* What do 
you think? Is she likely to recover?" 

" She mai/f she has youth and a superu constitution to 



i; 



estella's husband. 



45 



betriend her; but I tell you seriously this is a very danger- 
ous case, and may end in death or insanity. She requires 
the most devoted nursing by night and day, the tenderest 
care — care which the old woman is not constituted to give 
her. You must procure an experienced nurse, Mr. 
Fisher." 

" Will it do to-morrow?" gasped the terrified old man. 
** 1 — 1 expect a friend to-day, and I want to consult with 
him. Will to-morrow do?" 

*' It mustf if you say so. I will be here to-morrow, and 
every day, and do my utmost for my patient. Poor little 
Essie! I always liked the child! She must have had a 
ter ^.ble nervous shock!" 

The doctor departed, and the old man went to his room. 
He took no breakfast, he took no dinner, he was too thor- 
oughly frightened and miserable even to eat. 

He sat crouched in his chair over the fire, his grizzled 
head in his hands, waiting for Koysten Darrell. And in 
the sick-room Judith sat, with untiring patience. 

About three o'clock of the bleak afternoon, the captain 
of the ** Raven " made his appearance. He entered, 
blustering as the god of the wind — the picture of superb 
masculine health and strength — a strange contrast to tiiat 
cowering, wretched old man. 

** Well, uncle-in -law!" cried Captain Darrell, in his big, 
bass voice, ** and how are we to-day? And how is the re- 
bellious bride? Come to her senses yet?" 

"' She has lost them altogether," answered the old man, 
starting up and trembling. ** Listen to that, Koysten 
Darrell!" 

He held up his finger. In the pause that followed they 
«ould hear Estella's voice, loud and strange, talking rapidly. 

The captain of the ** Raven " turned his inquiring eyes 
upon Peter Fisher, 

** She has gone mad!" said the old man, in an awful 
whisper. ** She is raving in brain fever. The rats up in 
the attic have driven her insane. We overdid it, Roysten 
Darrell! Do you hear?" catching and shaking him in fear 
and rage. *' We overdid it!" 

" Speak for yourself, you old tyrant!" said Captain 
Darrell, flinging him off. ** /had nothing to do with it. 
What did 1 know of your infernal attic? So she has gone 



I' 






i 



46 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



mad, has she: Poor little Estella! Upon my soul, Tm 
sorry!" 

•* We bad the doctor here to-day," continued Peter 
Fisher, still trembling with terror and excitement. "Ju- 
dith went for him, and he says it's ten to one if she ever re- 
covers life and reason. She must have medicine and an 
experienced nurse, and he will visit her every day. It 
makes my blood run cold to think of it — the expense, Dar- 
rell — the awful expense!" 

** When did your blood ever run otherwise than cold, 
you venerable reptile?" responded Koysten Darrell, with 
unutterable contempt. " You're a more villainous old 
miser than 1 ever gave you credit for, if you can think of 
expense at such a time. Let the doctor come, and the 
nurse, too. Fll pay the one and provide the other. Poor 
little girl! I don't set up for a saint, but, by Jove! this is 
the meanest and dirtiest job 1 ever had a hand in." 

*' Will you, Roysten — will you really?" gasped Mr. 
Fisher, with kindling eyes — ** toill you pay the doctor and 
provide the nurse? Now that's generous of you, and no 
more than just either, for she's your wife, you know, now. 
It's like you, Roysten, and you're a good fellow. " 

"You thundering crocodile!" responded Captain Dar- 
rell, towering up to twice his usual size in the intensity of 
his contempt, "don't turn me sick! Did you keep the 
girl up there all night?" 

Peter Fisher, by way of answer, related minutely aU tiwt 
had occurred. 

" So, thanks to old Judith, and not to you, that the 
rats did not eat her alive! If she dies, won't you stand in 
the tallest sort of clover, my clever old friend? I'll go to 
your hanging with the greatest pleasure in life." 

" Don't talk like that, Roysten!" cried the old mftn, 
piteously — " don't! She won't die! We'll nurse her back 
to health and strength — she shall want for nothing. Whr^ 
is the nurse you are going to send, and when will you send 
her?" 

" I'll send her to-day. As to who she is — ask me no 
questions and I'll tell you no lies. She is one of the best 
nurses that ever sat by a sick-bed, that's all you need to 
know. And remember you don't starve her while she's 
here — she isn't used to that sort of thing, mine ancient 
crony. She and the sick girl must have everything they 



iV i 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



4T 



want — mind, Mr. Miser, everything ! Don't let me hear 
any complaints when I come back.'* 

** When you come back? Are you going away?** 



<« 



I'm going to take a run up to New York in the 
' Raven.' Our cargo's discharged — all has gone well thi» 
bout, and the little craft stands in need of repairs. I'll 
leave her in the dry dock for a few weeks and enjoy myself 
in Gotham. I'll be back in five weeks at the uttermost, 
and hope to find our little girl up and about once more, and 
ready to recruit her health and spirits by a sea-voyage. 
And now, good-bye to you, old fellow! Look out for the 
nurse in the course of the evening. " 

Peter Fisher remained alone in his room, cowering over 
the fire, until the dull day wore itself out, and the duller 
night fell. It was quite dark before the nurse made her 
appearance — a nurse who strangely startled the old man, 
so young and duskily beautiful was she. 

** I thought he would have sent an elderly party," gasp- 
ed Mr. Fisher. ** Why, you don't look much older than 
Estella yourself." 

" I am three-and-twenty," answered the nurse, in a sil- 
very, foreign-toned voice, " and I have had a great deal of 
experience. I am quite capable of nursing Miss Mallory. " 

** So Captain Darrell has told you all about her, I see. 
Have you known him long, my dear?" inquired the old 
man, with a cunning leer. 

The great black eyes looked at him, solemn, shining. 

*' Long enough to know he never answers unnecessary 
questions, sir." 

*' What is your name?" 
'* Oarlotta Mendez." 
Ah! a foreigner — I thought so." 
A Cuban, sir. Will you permit me to go to mv pa- 
tient?" 

Mr. Fisher seized the hand-bell, and rang loudly. A 
moment, and Judith appeared. 

" Here is the new nurse, old woman," snarled her mas- 
ter, with a vicious look, ** She will take your place, and 
yoN will take yourself back to the kitchen. Get me my 
supper, and quick p,bout it. " 

Judith and Carlotta surveyed each other with imper* 
turbable countenances. 



(4 



<( 



.. J' 



.! \^ 



;." !l 



48 



estella's husband. 



** This way, ma'am," eaid the old woman, turning down 
the passage to the siok-room. 

*' How is your patient to-night?" the new nurse asked. 

** Sleeping just now, and as well as she ever will be in 
this world, I reckon.*' 

" You think, then, she will die?" 

Judith nodded grimly. 

* Look for yourself, ma'am," she said, ushering her 
companion in. "Does that look like the face of a girl 
liktly to recover?" 

Carlotta bent over the bed. "White as death itself Estella 
lay, and as still. The young nurse felt her pulse, listened 
to her breathing, laid her hand on the hot head, with f^n 
experienced air. 

" I think you are mistaken," she said, slowly. ** She 
is very low, but I think both life and reason will return; 
and I have nursed such cases as this before. " 

From that hour, Cariotta established herself mistress of 
the sick-room. The doctor looked in surprise, when he 
came, at the youthful and darkly beautiful face, and put 
her through a sharp cross-examination. All questions re- 
lating to her profession she answered clearly and intelli- 
gently, but all relating to herself she calmly ignored. 

" if Mr. Fisher is satisfied, and if you find me compe- 
tent to fulfill my duties, I do not see the necessity of re- 
lating my biography to a perfect stranger," she said, coldly 
transfixing him with her wonderful black eyes. 

The doctor grunted and asked no more questions. That 
she was thoroughly competent, he soon saw. By night 
and by day she hovered constantly beside the sick-bed, 
sleepless and devoted, anticipating every wish — a very 
jewel of a nurse. 

** You are a treasure, Madame Oarlotta," the physician 
said to her, one day, in a burst of professional enthusiasm. 
** Estella will owe her recovery as much to your nursing as 
to my skill. " 

For Estella was recovering slowly but surely. Before 
the close of the first fortnight, the hazel eyes opened to 
calm life and reason once more — pened, and looked 
dreamily in the dark face bending over her. 

** Who are you?" she had whispered, faintly. 

** Your friend," answered the sweetest voice, it seemed 



estella's husband. 



m 



*> 



to the girl, she had ever heard; *' but you are not to talk. 
You are to drink this, and go to sleep." 

She obeyed — too fetble even to wondci — and slept long 
and soundly. When she again awoke, many hours after, 
the dark face was still there. 



(* 



I don't know you," she said. ** Tell me your name. " 
** My name is Carlotta. I am your nurse. You have 
been ill." 

" III, have Ih'* very faintly. " What has been the mat- 
ter?" 

** BrPiin fever; but you are better now. Only you must 
not talk until you have grown a little stronger. " 

Again Estella obeyed, through sheer weakness. Bu»Iife 
and strength cam' pidly, and beat strongly in bo r breast. 
Before the end o ine third week she was able to sit up in 
bed and eat the dainty little messes the young nurse con- 
cocted with her own hands. 

Memory returned with that new life, and slowly Estella 
remembered all the events of that horrible night. It seemed 
a long way off now, and with a thrill of terror she realized 
her present situation. Sick and a prisoner — in the power 
of Peter Fisher and Roysten Darrell — alone and friendless 
in the wide world. Where was Dick Derwent? What 
must he think of her? "Was he, too, in the clutches of 
those merciless men? 

She asked no questions — some vague intuition told her 
the owner of that dark, unsmiling face would answer none. 
She lay, and thought and thought, and realized fully all 
her helplessness and misery, until a sick despair took pos- 
session of her body and soul. 

" Why did I not die?" she ihought, wearily. " Others 
die for whom the world is bright, but I — I, who have noth- 
nig to live for, nothing to hope for, I grow well. " 

No; Estella had nothing to hope for. Peter Fisher's 
ward knew very little of that other radiant world, where 
all the misery of this lower life ends, and perfect joy be- 
gins. She was little better than a heathen, poor child, 
with a very vague idea of that blissful land where the 
crooked things of this earth are made straight and patient 
womanly martyrs receive their crown. It was all daik to 
her, lying there on that forlorn sick-bed — past help, pait 
hope, past every thin}?o 






i\ 



i 



I" 



(H* 



.i./ii 



ESTELLA 8 HUSBAND. 

** I should like to see a copy of the Rockledge * Kews,' 
Carlotta," she said, suddenly, one day to her nurse. 

Sho was sitting up now, wan and white as a spirit, but 
daily growing stronger in spite of her despair. It was the 
first wish she had expressed, and her nurse hastened to 
gratify it. She left the room, and returned in a few mo- 
ments with a recent copy of the pappv. 

Estella took it, glanced eagerly up and down its columns, 
jind at length, amid the advertisements, found what she 
wanted. It was an offer of fifty dollars reward from the 
editor of the journal for any information of Richard Der- 
went, sub-editor, who had mysteriously disappeared on the 
night of the eleventh of May. 

Her pale face grew a shade whiter. She laid down the 
paper, and looked at her nurse. 

** What day of the month is this?" she asked. 

** The second of June. " 

The girl uttered a low cry, and covered her face with 
her hands. Her worst fears were realized. Poor Dick was 
in the power of Roysten Darrell — like herself, a prisoner. 

"It is time you returned to bed. Miss Mallory,'* Car- 
lotta said, at length. " Let me undress you and put you 
back to bed. You must have your supper and go to 
sleep." 

" I can't take any supper to-night, *' Estella said, mourn- 
fully. *' I want to see Mr. Fisher." 

The fathomless black eyes looked at her in surprise. 

** Indeed! Well, I will tell Mr. JFisher as soon as you are 
in bed.'' 

She helped her patient in, arranged the clothes, and 
quitted the room. Estella lay very still — white as the pil- 
lows — the brown eyes, the pale, patient face full of inex- 
pressible despair. 

The old man came at once, shrinking a little, hard as he 
was, from those mournful eyes. But there was no anger, 
nore proach, in that sad, young face — the look was infi- 
nitely more touching to see. 

" How do, Estella? You're better again. I*m glad of 
that," the old man said, shuffling uneasily. 

** Yes, I am getting better," the girl said, slowlj. ** If 
my life was a happy one, I suppose I would di& Mr. 
Fisher^ where is Dick Derwent?'^ 



estella's husband. 



51 



She asked the question so suddenly, so unexpectedly, that 
ihe old man started back. 

" Dick Derwentl" he said, confusedly; " what do I 
know of him?" 

** You know where he is, Mr. Fisher. Please don't try 
to deceive me now. He is a prisoner, in Royston Darrell's 
power. " 

** Hey?" cried the startled master of Fisher's Folly. 
** How do you know that?" 

** Because he has disappeared. There is a reward ofifered 
for any news of him, and no one but you and Roysten Dar- 
rell can have any object in spiriting him away. Ho disap- 
peared on the night of the eleventh — the night on which — " 

She paused, shuddering convulsively from head to foot. 

" Yes, yes, yes!" said Peter Fisher, hastily. ** Well, 
Estella, I don't know. Captain Darrell — Dare-devil Dar- 
rell — stops at nothing when his blood is up. He mai/ have 
this young fellow a prisoner for what I can tell. But, if 
he has, of one thing I am certain, his release depends upon 
you," 

"Upon me?" 

" Consent to be Roysten Darrell's wife, and from that 
hour Richard Derwent is free." 

She raised herself eagerly on her elbow, and looked at 
him. 

** You swear this!" she cried. ** If I consent to become 
the wife of Captain Darrell, Richard Derwent shall be set 
at liberty?" 

** I swear it!" said Peter Fisher. ** Consent, and he is 
a free man." 

** Then I consent!" exclaimed Estella, her eyes flashing. 
** I will marry Roysten Darrell — for mind, I am not mar- 
ried to him now — on condition that, the day before the 
marriage, D'ok Derwent is set at liberty." 

"It is a bargain!" said the old man, eagerly. ** He 
shall be freed, and you shall have proof of it under his own 
hand. But, remember, if you fail to keep your promiiso 
after—" 

" I shall not fail! What does it matter what becomes 
of me f" she answered, with a strange laugh. ** I would 
do more than that to set Diok at liberty. Dear old Dick!" 
she said, softly, " he loved me — the only being on earth 



i 



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i 



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m '' 



19 



estella's hushand. 



who cv'or did. It is tho least I can do to sacrifice myself 
that ho may escape." 

" Thuii this is settled?*' asked the old man, his little, 
greedy eyes gleaming. ** You will remarry Koysten Dar- 
rell, ill liie presence of witnesses, on condiLion that he lib- 
erates Richard Derwent? And you swear not to deceive 
us — not to fail?** 

*' I swear! Keep your part of tho compact, and I shall 
keep mine. I will marry Koyston Darrell. ** 

Straiigw fire this in her eye — strange energy this in her 
voice. But Peter Fisher is blind and deaf, and only knows 
that the summit of his wishes is won. 

They KJiake hands over it, and he leaves her and hobbles 
back to his room, rubbing his palms and chuckling hoarsely. 

And Eslella, left alone, turns her face to the wall and 
broods darkly, and never closes an eye the long night 
through. 

CHAPTER VII. 

THE HAND OF FATE. 

The sun was setting — a glorious summer sunset — on the 
sea. Estella Mallory sat alone in her room, alone by the 
window, and looked with dreary, listless eyes at the glori- 
ous sunburst in the west flooding earth and sea with crim- 
Bon glory. Little pools amid the marshes turned to pools 
of blood. Tho soft evening wind came freshly in, and the 
fishermen's boats, glorified in the radiant sunset, flashed 
ovei- the sparkling waves. 

The girl sat idly, her thin hands folded, the large brown 
eyes strangely dull and weary. 

" Will I ever see it like this again?" she thought. ** Am 
I looking at the beautifnl sunset for the last, last time? Is 
there a heaven beyond that gorgeous sky, and do they know 
how miserable and friendless I am, I wonder? In all this 
wide earth is there another lost, lost creature like me?" 

There was a letter lying on her lap — a letter in the hand- 
writing of Richard Derwent, received within the hour. 

She took it up, and xAii over its iQW brief lines for the 
dozenth time: 

" Dear Estella, — They have told me all— they have 
set me free. I owe my liberty to you^ and you have my 



estella's iiusuand. 



■inoere thanks. In a day or two I will bo at Fishor's Folly, 
hoping and trusting to see you. Until then, dearest Essie, 
farewell. Kichakd Dekwent. " 



\ 



There was no date to this scant note, but the writing 
was surely DicK Derwcnt's familiar chirography. 

No suspicion entered the girl's earnest, truthful mind 
that this note, and that other given her by the butcher's 
boy, were Roysten Darrell's clover forgeries. 

'* They have not told him of what is to take place to- 
morrow night, then,*' the girl thought — *' my marriage. 
Well, bettor so — he will know all soon enough. And he 
will be sorry, too— poor Dick! The only one in all the 
world to be sorry for Estella.'* 

There was a tap at the door. Before she could speak, 
it was opened, and Carlotta, the nurse, stood before her. 

** Captain Darrell is down-stairs, Miss Mallory, and 
wishes to see you.'* 

Estella arose instantly. An imperceptible shudder crept 
over her, and her face turned a shade paler, but she never 
hesif <ted. She went straight down-stairs, and into the 
dreury parlor, where Peter Fisher and the captain of the 
** Raven " sat. 

** Ah, Estella, how are you?" said Captain Darrell, com- 
ing forward coolly with outstretched hands. " Glad to 
see you about again, and more than glad to hear the news 
Mr. Fisher has to tell. I don't bear any malice, my little 
girl, as I told you once before, but it's high time you list- 
ened to reason. I'll make you a capital husband, and 
your life will be one long dream of bliss on board the 
* Raven.'" 

The girl shrunk back, turning paler than before, and 
drew away, with a shiver, from his extended hand. 

** You won't, won't you?" said Captain Darrell. 
" Rather hard on a fellow, on the eve of his wedding. I 
hope you won't flinch from the ceremony also, when the 
time comes." 

** No," said Estella, speaking with an eftort. ** I shall 
not Spare me until then. Captain Darrell. I will keep 
my word." 

" Glad to hear it! You got that young chap's note?" 

"Yes." 

" I didn't tell him ajbout that little aSair of ours to-mor- 



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row night, you se« — what was the use? He'll be here t« 
see you in a day or two, I dare say, and will find you gone/' 
" Yes," said Estella, in a low, strange voice, "he will 
find me gone." 

" "i ou will be ready to-morrow evening, by eight o'clock. 
The Reverend Mr. Jacobs, of Rockledge, is coming to tie 
the Gordian knot, and half a dozen of fiueads with him. 
Before morning, the * Raven ' weighs anchor, and bears 
off Roysten Darrell and his bonny bride to fairer lands. 
Trust me, Estella, we'll have a free life and a merry one, 
and all the ink-smudged printers this side the Styx may go 
hang!" 

Estella listened, cold and pale. 

** May I go now?" she asked. "If you have nothing 
more to say, Captain Darrell, I should like to return to 
my rcom." 

** You're in a deuce of a hurry. But go, if you want 
to, and try and recover your spirits and your re ^ cheeks by 
to-morrow night. You are whiter than the foam of the 
sea." 

She bowed slightly and left the room, going straight to 
her own. A strange, dull gleam burned in the brown 
eyes; the pale lips were set with resolute compression. 

" It is easier to die," she thought, slowly — " it is easier 
to die at once. I should go mad and jump over the ves- 
sel's side before I had spent one day with that man. Yes, 
Boysten Darrell, I will fulfill my compact, and then — ' ' 

She looked out, with a tearless, rigid face, at the dark- 
ening sky, at the wide sea. Twilight was falling, gemmed 
with stars, and the evening wind sighed mournfully over 
the dreary marshes and n:3adows. 

With a long, weary breath, the girl laid her head against 
the cool glass, and loo' .ed up at the starlit canopy. 

** Where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary 
are at rest," she thought — " will such a sinner as I am 
ever enter that blissful land?" 

It grew dark. She sat there moveless until the door 
opened and Carlotta entered with a light. 

" Time you were in bed. Miss Mallory," said the young 
nurse. "It is past your usual hour, and you will catch 
cold in the draught of that window. " 

She rose immediately, with a prompt obedience that wm 



bstella's husband. 



55 



9f 



H 



ti 



quite a new feature in her character, and began slowly to 
undress. 

Are you going to bed, too, Oarlotta?" she asked. 
In half an hour. Miss Mallory. Mr. Fisher objects to 
our burning his candles.'' 

She began to prepare her bed as she spoke. Since her 
coming she had always slept in her patient's room, on the 
old-fashioned lounge. 

** Has Captain Darrell gone?" inquired Estella. 

** I have just let him oat, miss." 

Estella asked no more questions; she went to bed, but 
not to sleep. 

Carlotta arranged her couch — literally her couch — set 
the room in order, disrobed, blew out the light, and fol- 
lowed her example. 

An hour passed — two — three. The old house was very 
still — only the complaining sea wind, and the racing of the 
rats overhead, were to be heard. Carlotta's regular breath- 
ing betokened peaceful slumber, but Estella lay, with wide- 
open, glittering eyes, waiting — waiting! 

A loud-voiced clock down-stairs struck twelve. As the 
last stroke died away, she softly rose, drew on her stockings, 
wrapped herself in an old morning-drese, crossed the room 
softly, and bent above the nurse. 

" Sound asleep," the girl thought. *' Now or never is 
my time. Shall I light the candle? No — 1 can find my 
way in the dark." 

it was not quite dark; the starlight lighted the room. 
From her table Estella took a small medicine bottle, capa- 
ble of holding two ounces, and, grasping it tightly, tiptoed 
to the door, opened it gently and passed out. 

The old door creaked weirdly, as it is in the nature of 
old doors to do at dead of night. Carlotta was the lightest 
of sleepers— would the noise arouse her? No; all remained 
Btill. 

She turned and descended the stairs. They, too, creaked, 
as though bent on betraying her. The lower passage was 
in deepest darkness, but she groped her way along, without 
noise, to the door of Peter Fisher's sleeping-room. With 
her hand on the handle she paused. Was he asleep? Yes 
— regular and sonorous came his loud snores — she might 
enter without fear. 

She tamed the look and went in. The old man lay 



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56 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAJrn- 



sleeping as soundly as though evil consciences were fables, 
locking ugly and grim in the pallid light. 

One glance sufficed to tell her no noise she was likely to 
make would awake him. She crossed the room softly, and 
paused before a table upon which stood a medicine-chesL 

It was not locked. She lifted the lid, peeped among the 
bottles, drew forth a large one, after some searching, filled 
with a dark liquid, and labeled ** Laudanum — Poison." 

As she did so, a slight noise, like the rustling of a wom- 
an's dress in the passage, made her start. She paused to 
listen, but all was still. 

" Only the wind,'* she thought, " or a rat." 

She drew the stopper out of the bottle and nearly filled 
her own vial. Her hand shook, and she spilled the liquid, 
and the face, on which the starlight shone, was deathly pale. 

She replaced the bottle, closed the chest, stole to the 
door, shut it noiselessly, and, with the vial still tightly 
grasped, slowly made her way upstairs, and back to her own 
chamber. There lay Carlotta, her dark eyes sealed in 
sleep. 

** Safe," whispered Estella, laying her hand upon her 
throbbing heart. ** What would become of me if I had 
failed? I can defy you now^ Eoysten Darrelll" with a 
strange smile. " This little bottle is stronger than you. 
I will keep my word, but a darker bridegroom will claim 
your bride!" 

She hid it away, and went back to bed. And scarcely 
had her head touched the pillow, when sleep took her, and 
wrapped her i>i merciful unconsciousness. 

It was late when she awoke. Carlotta was moving si- 
lently about the room, and her breakfast lay spread upon 
a tray. 

*' Your wedding-day. Miss Mallory," the nurse said, with 
Ji strange smile. " High time to get up.*' 

Her wedding-day! 

Estella turned away her face for a moment, growing cold 
as ice in the warm June air. Only for a moment, then 
she arose, pale and impassive, her young face set and rigid 
as marble. 

It seemed very easy to die in comparison to life with the 
man she hated and loathed, and no fear of the dread here- 
after held her back. 

The day passed — the hours dragged on. They were 



ESTELLA S HUSBAND. 



57 



mercif a] enough to leave her alone. They brought her 
her meals, but she tasted nothing. Eating and drinking 
were nothing to her now. Hidden in her bosom lay the 
yial — her one remaining hope. 

The twilight fell. Again the sun had gone down red into 
the sea — glorious beyond the power of words to tell. Again 
the silver stars swung out, and a pale, young sickle moon 
gleamed amoug them. Again Estella sat and watched 
them — for the last time! 

As the daylight faded entirely out, Carlotta entered, her 
arms full of white garments, that gleamed ghostily in the 
gloom. 

** It is time you were dressing for your bridal, Miss Mal- 
lory," she said. ** Here are your clothes, and I have come 
to help you to dress.'* 

In what a strange, ringing tone she spoke! And when 
she lighted the caudle, what a strange, streaming fire there 
was in her black eyes! what a hot, fierce glow on her sal- 
low cheeks! Even Estella noticed it in that supreme mo- 
ment. 

** flow oddly you look, Carlotta!" she said. ** Is there 
anything the matter?'* 

Carlotta laughed — a weird, mirthless laugh. 

** Only the excitement of a wedding. Such things al- 
ways throw me into a fever. Come, it is past seven. The 
clergyman and the guests are in the parlor; the bridegroom 
will be here presently, and his bride must not keep him 
waiting." 

She took forcible possession of the girl, combed out her 
fair, brown hair, and let it hang in a rippling shower of 
waves and curls over her shoulders. 

Then she arranged the dress — a white muslin robe, the 
work of her own hands — a simple blonde veil, edged with 
lace, and wreathed with orange-bl assoms. 

"1 made all myself," said Carlotta. *'Look in the 
glass, my pretty bride, and praise my skill as a seam- 
stress. Roysten Darrell will be proud of his bride to-night. " 

Again she laughed — that hard, mirthless laugh — and 
turned the girl to the little mirror. White as a vision — 
white dress, white veil, white face, white flowers — &h.n 
looked like a corpse tricked out in bridal gear. 

'* There never was so pale a bride," said Carlotta; " but 
brides are always pale. A three-months' trip in the 



':n 



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58 



estella's husband. 






! 



* Baven,' with Captain Darrell, will bring back jour lost 
roses. " 

Estella turned away from the glass. 

** C*irlotta," she said, ** I have eaten nothing all day. 
I feel sick and faiiit. Will you fetch me some wine and 
a glass — a largr glass?" 

A strange request for a bride. But Carlotfca turned to 
go at once. 

*' Hark!'' she said, as she opened the door, " hear 
that?" 

A sounding step, firm and heavy, crossed the lower hall; 
a deep, melodious bass voice rolled out aaiong less sonor- 
ous tones. 

" Captain Darrell," she said. *' The bridegroom has 



>f 



come. 

She flitted away with the words, returning in a mo- 
ment with a bottle of port wine and a goblet. 

** Thanks!" said Estella, calmly. " Leave it on the 
tablcp Cariotta, and give me ten minutes alone." 

Carlotta obeyed. 

Estella secured the door, and drew from her bosom the 
vial of laudanum. 

** There is enough here for the strongest man alive," 
she thought; " more than enough for me!" 

But she emptied it all into the goblet, nevertheless, with 
a steady hand. It filled it about one fourth. Then she 
took the wine-bottle and replenished it to the top. Still, 
with a steady hand, she lifted it up. 

" And this is death!" she thought — ** the fabled water 
of Lethe! This brown drink ends all the miseries of life, 
and sets me free!" 

She raised it to her lips. But at the cold touch of the 
glass the strong young life within her leaped up in fierce 
refusal. She sat it down, untasted, trembling for the first 
time. At the same instant there came a soft knock at the 
door. 

** It is I — Carlotta! Your uncle wishes to see you most 
particularly, and at once, in his room." 

Estella could hear her flitting away. Again she lifted 
the goblet — again some invisible force pushed the fatal 
draught away. 

'' I will wait uctil I come back," she thought, with a 



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estella's husband. 



Sf 



siok shudder of repulsion. ** I will hear what he has t« 
say." 

She replaced it on the table, unfastened the door, and 
glided down to Peter Fisher's room. 

if ♦ ♦ >ie 9H >l« Ht 

In the parlor the few guests were assembled — the Rev- 
erend Mr. Jacobs among them. Silence and constraint 
reigned; every one felt there was something strange and 
abnormal about this wedding. Roysten Darrell waited a 
few minutes, yawned loudly in their faces, turned abruptly, 
and stalked out. 

*' I'll see Oarlotta," he thought. " I feel more uneasy 
about her than 1 do about the other one. She's a very 
devil when her blood's up. " 

He ascended the stairs in search of her. But the rooms 
into which he looked were all empty. Estella'b came last 
— he recognized it at once — but it, too, was deserted. 

** She's with the old man, I suppose. What's that on 
the table — wine? Upon my honor, the little girl knows 
how to prime herself for her part! I'll try your port, my 
dear, and wait here for your reappearance. It mayn't be 
quite de rigueur, but ceremony be blowed!" 

He threw himself into a chair, and coolly took up the 
goblet of poisoned wine. 

" Here s to your very good health, my pretty bride, and 
to your jolly bridegroom!" 

He raised it to his lips, and drained it to the bottom. 
The last mouthful he spat out with a wty face. 

'*Bah!" he said, " it's not fit for pigs! Logwood and 
red ink!" 

He took out a cigar, lighted it hastily, and began to 
smoke. Still the minutes flew by, and no one came. The 
dock down-stairs struck eight. 

*' The fatal hour!" thought Roysten Darrell. ** I won* 
der Where's the bride?" 

As if his thought had evoked her, the white figure cam« 
flying up the stairs, pausing on the threshold in blank 
amaze at sight of Roys*^en Darrell. Then, quick as light- 
ning, her eyes flashed upon the goblet. It was empty! 

She understood all. She paused before him, her blood 
turning to ice. 

*' Come in, my dear, come m!" cried Captain Darrell. 
^' I have no business here, I know; but it looked cosy, and 





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your wine looked tempting. I took a chair and helped 
myself." 

" Helped yourself!" Estella repeated, mechanically. 

** Drank your glass of wine, my dear, and beastly stuff 
it is! I'll give you better vintage on board the * Raven.' 
Come, it is i lie time. Take my arm, and let us go down. " 

Helplessly, she obeyed — numb with terror. As they 
turned to descend, they met Carlotta face to face. She, 
too, had heard Roysten Darrell's last words. 

" You drank Estella's wine?" she asked, in a strange, 
metallic voice. 

** Yes; what difference does it make to you 9 There's 
plenty left, such as it is. Come along, Carlotta, and be 
m at the death!" 

In at the death! Ominous phrase! Already the poison 
was beginning its work — already a dull, sick torpor was 
stealing over the strong man. 

" 1 don't know what is the matter with me," he said, 
impatiently. '* I am turning as sick as a dog, and I feel 
half asleep." 

There was no reply. Frozen with terror — speechless, 
paralyzed — Estella allowed herself to be led in. Already 
the victim staggered as he walked 

The lights, the faces swam in a red mist before the bride 
as they entered the parlor. What had she done — what 
had she done? She stood there with a ghastly face — wait- 
ing — waiting. 

They took their places — the clergyman opened his book. 

A leaden pallor was creeping over the ruddy face of 
Captain Darrell; his eyes were growing dark and dull. 

The first words were spoken; but ere the ceremony had 
well begun, the bridegroom reeled like a falling pine, and 
dropped like a stone at their feet. 

A long, wild shriek rang through the house. Then 
Estella turned and fled frantically from the room. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

carlotta's warning. 

In a moment all was wildest confusion. No one heeded 
the flying bride — all gathered around the fallen bride^ 
groom. They lifted him up, ghastly as a dead man. 



estella's husband. 



61 



>9 



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** He is poisoned!" cried a clear voice — ** he hiis swal- 
lowed a dose of laudanum large enough to kill the strongest 
man alive! Se^i for the doctor it once!" 

It was Carlotta who spoke^ her dark face ashen with 
terror. 

The physician who had attended Estella chanced to be 
one of tne guests. He stepped forward at once. 

How do yov know that?" he asked, suspiciously. 

What does that matter, so long as 1 know it?" cried 
Carlotta, her black eyes flashing. *' I tell you he drank 
over an ounce and a half of laudanum!" 

** Did he take it purposely? Did he intend to commit 
suicide?" inquired the startled physician. 

** No; he took it in a mistake. Why don't you do some- 
thing for him?" she broke out passionately. *' While you 
talk and gape, you will let him die at your feet. " 

*' It may be too late, nevertheless. Who will riuo to 
Eockledge and fetch me a stomach-pump?" 

There were two or three eager volunteers. The doctor 
calmly selected one. 

** My horse is at your service — don't spare him. Ride 
likft the wind — lifo or death depend on it." 

The messenger departed. They bore the drugged man 
to Mr. Fisher's own room and laid him upon the bed. 
Then, in the lull which followed, and in which nothing was 
done, the old man thought of his ward. 

" Where is Estella?" he asked, suspiciously. 

" She has fled to her own room, "answered Carlotta, in 
a strangely calm voice. ** I am going to her there." 

" Does she— " 

Peter Fisher stopped in sudden horror at his own thought, 
and looked at the dark face of the creolo nurse. But that; 
colorless face told nothing. 

*' Go to her!" he said, hurriedly. ** See what she is 
about, Carlotta. In the confuson, she may try to escape." 

Without a word, Carlotta obeyed. She went straight to 
the bride's room, her face set in that locked, sfony calm. 

The door stood wide, and there, crouched in the furthest 
corner — pale, panting, with wild, dilated eyes, and the 
look of a stag at bay — stood Estella. 

The Creole paused before her, shut the door, and black 
eyeb and brown met in one long, fixed look. 



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istella's husband. 



** Well," said CarjV>tta, at last, ** you have done your 
work. I hope you are satisfied? Your viotim lies lifeless 
below. Poisoner! murderess! is your hatred satisfied at 
last?" 

The white hands flew up and covered the whiter face. 
She uttered a long, wailing cry of despair. 

** I never meant it — I never meant it! Oh, Carlotta, as 
Heaven hears me, I never meant it for him ! 1 mixed the 
poisoned wine for myself. How was 1 to know he would 
enter my room and drink it?" 

" I believe you,'' said Carlotta, coldly; ** and, hut that 
1 believe jou, I would have denounced you on the spot. 
Do you think 1 did not know as well as yourself what you 
intended to do? Why, you little imbecile, 1 followed jou 
last night — I saw you steal the laudanum, and I knew m a 
moment how you intended your bridal to end. When you 
asked me for the wine, an hour ago, do you suppose I could 
not surmise what it was for? Ah, bah! I read you like a 
book, and you had not the courage to drink it, little cow- 
ard, when mixed. You left it until the last moment — you 
went down to the old man's room, and he, Roysten Darrell, 
came in here in your absence, and drank the poisoned 
draught. I knew it all — I knew it when you left this room 
together, and still 1 did not speak. Do you wish to know 
why?" 

" Yes," said Estella, recoiling at the suppressed fury in 
her voice and face. 

"" Because 1 love Mm. Because I worship him with a 
mad idolatry that you j<r little milk and water school- 

firl, can never dream of i Because I am his wife — do you 
ear — his wedded wife ! And I would sooner see him dead 
at my feet than even for an hour the husband of another! I 
love him as only we women of the passionate South ever 
love; and he must have been blind and mad to think for a 
moment I could consent to his scheme. Why, you poor 
little wretch! 1 had the poisoned drug ready for you myself, 
ever since I came here, and the hour that saw you Ms 
bride would have seen you die by my hand. You tried to 
save me the trouble, and failed. But better as it is — a 
thousand times better as it is than to behold him wedded t« 
another! In death, at least, he is mine!" 

Estella hid her poor, pale face, with convulsive sobs. 



1^ 



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iUSTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



" It is dreadful — it is horrible! Oh, Carlotta! cannoth* 
Ing be doDe? What will become of me if he dies?*' 

** If he dies 1 will denounce you as his murderess! You, 
Estella Mallory, as surely as we stand here, if he dies, I 
will denounce you, and you shall sutler for your crime." 

** But 1 never meant it!*' cried the girl, in wild affright. 
** Carlotta, you know 1 never meant it!" 

** That is nothing," Carlotta replied, with somber dig- 
nity; " the deed is done. In a few hours the result wnl 
be known. Those few hours are yours, to do with as you 
will. In your place / should not wait to be arrested." 

Estella gazed at her breathlessly. 

** Carlotta, what do you mean?" 

*' Little fool!" said Carlotta, with a look of dark scorn, 
** have you no brains? Look at those windows, not eight 
feet off the ground; look at those sheets and quilts, easily 
torn and knotted together, and ask yourself w' at I mean! 
The world is wide, life is sweet; the meanest reptile that 
ever crawled will make an effoit for its life." 

Still Estella sat and gazed at her in breathless wonder. 

What manner of creature was this who one instant threat^ 
ened to denounce and deliver her up to justice and the next 
showed her the means of escape? 

Carlotta answered that look. 

" Still far wide!" she said, with a hard laugh. " Still 
in a trance of amaze! Listen to me, little idiot, and un- 
derstand, if you can. The dose was too large; they have 
sent for a stomach-pump. Hoysten Darrell, amid ten 
chances of death, has one of life. If he lives he will com- 
prehend all, and will all the more doggedly insist on your 
marrying him. I know the man — oppose him, and his 
purpose grows as adamant. If he dies, and you are to be 
found, I will denounce you. Life or death for him brings 
equal danger to you; but if he lives, and you escape, he 
returns to me. I have warned you. Now do as you 
please. " 

Without giving the girl a chance to reply, Carlotta turned 
abruptly and quitted the room. 

For upward of five minutes, Estella remained like one 
in a trance. Then the full danger of her situation burst 
upon her; the full meaning of Carlotta's warning came 
home; the full force of her hint to escape mfi^jQ itseU uu" 
derstood. 



! t 



nl 



64 



EBTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



' 'I 



Yea, lite was sweet while one chance of liberty remained. 
She would take her at her word — she would fly I 

She sprung up, a now being, resolute and ea^er. Her 
first act was to secure the door; the next to raise one of 
the windows and look out. It was not so very high, and 
she, who had been ready to take her own life little better 
than aii hour ago, might surely rir.k broken limbs now. 

The night favored her — calm, warm, starlight. West- 
ward spread the gray majesty of the sea. Eastward lay the 
lonely marshes and deserted, winding road. Southward 
slept the quiet town of Kockledge, its lights looking faint 
and far away. 

" And Dick is there!" Estella thought. " Oh, if he were 
only here to help me now!" 

She rapidly began her preparations. Every second was 
precious beyond price. She took off the white dress, the 
veil, the wreath, the gloves and slippers, and attired herself 
for her journey. A suit of gray merino had been provided 
for wearing on board the "Raven." She put this on, 
wrapping herself in a warm shawl. Strong walking-shoes, 
and a little gray straw hat, with a bright wing, completed 
her costume. 

In all, it had not taken her ten minutes to dress. The 
only part of her bridal trappings she retained was a little 
gold chain and cross and a couple of rings — one of plain 
gold, the other set with pearls. 

The simple jewels had belonged to her mother, and ^ 
hers of right; but Peter Fisher had never yielded them up 
until to-night. 

** I will keep them,'" :he thought. " I have no money, 
and if the worst comc> to the worst, I can sell them for 
food. If my mother wtio alive she would not keep them 
and see me starve." 

Was there anything elsi? She looked around the room. 
Yes, her book! It, too, hi : been her mother's, and it con- 
tained a lock of that dead u; other's hair. 

She took it off the table— i^ little volume, bound in pur- 
ple velvet, with tarnished cli ^ps and corners, containing a 
text of Scripture for every da in the year. 

It opened at the fly-leaf. Uhere was writing upon it — 
writing pale and faded — that turned the tide of Estella's 
destiny. She looked at the dim, pale letters: 



pur- 
nga 

it— 
Vila's 



/ 



estella's husband. 

'• IIklen Mali.ouy, 

To her beloved sister, Estella, 

No. — Poplar St., Chelsea, Mass., 

March 18, 18- " 



63 



** 



The date was three years before Estella was born. The 
faded sorawl flashed upon her now like a burst of sudden 
light. 

** Why not go there," she thought, ** to my mother's 
sister — to my aunt? She is still alive — still in the same 
place — the old homestead. Mr. Fisher told me so to-night, 
and that he was going to write to her of my marriage. For 
my mother's sake — the sister she loved — she will surely 
befriend me.** 

Her eyes lighted, her cheeks flushed. New hope kindled 
in her hopeless heart. What did it matter, in that instant, 
that she was penniless — that she knew about as much the 
way to Chelsea as to Copenhagen? Hopeful sixteen saw 
light and liberty at last. 

She hid the precious volume in her bosom with her cross 
and chain, and went to work upon her ladder. 

In a quarter of an hour the sheets, strong and coarse in 
material, were torn in strips, knotted firmly together, 
fasteued within to a strong hook in the wall, and flung out 
of the window to the ground. 

All was now complete. She took no bundle — she would 
hamper herself with nothing that could obstruct her flight. 

She paused, pale and breathless, a moment to listen. 
Down-stairs she could hear the tramping of feet, the hurry- 
ing to and fro; upstairs she could kear the noisy scampering 
of the rats. 

She clasppd her hands, and looked up at the star-gemmed 
sky. 

** Save me, Oi., Lord!" she prayed. ** Help a helpless 
orphan girl escaping from her foes!" 

With that earnest, half-breathed prayer, she made her 
way through the window and laid hold of her ladder. 

If it should break! But her weight was light — the re- 
sistance was little. She was on the ground almost in an 
instant — free! 

She turned and fled, running breathlessly, headlong, 
over fields and marshes. She reached the high-road; sIm 

8 



I •! 



it 



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xbtella's husband. 



turned her face regolutely from Rookledge, in the opposiU 
direction. 

*' Brooklyn is but seventy miles ofi6>'* she thought. ** The 
first step to Chelsea is to reach Brooklyn. Good-bye, dear 
old Dick I We may never meet again. " 

One brief, backward glance at the wide sea, at the lone- 
some marshes, at the long, low, gloomy old house where 
she had sutlered so much — at the darker " Haven," lying, 
like a huge bird of ill-omen as it was, in its sheltered cove 
'—at the distant lights of Bockledge, twinkling like pale 
stars — and then off and away like the wind. 



CHAPTER IX. 
estella's flight. 

Away along the deserted country road, past swelling 
Weadows and lonely fields, past dark and silent farm- 
houses, Estella flew. She ran until she could run no 
longer; then, panting and exhausted, she paused, nearly a 
mile from Fisher's Folly, and leaned against a way-side tree 
to draw breath. 

She was out of sight of the sea and the marshes. Wind- 
ing and winding away, until it lost itself in a starry belt of 
horizon, went the winding, dusty road — the road that led to 
liberty. 

It was almost midnight now, and very still. The inex- 

Sressible hush of night and slumber lay over the quiet earth, 
'nly the bright stars kept vigil, and a pale, young cres- 
cent moon sailed slowly up the purple vault through a sea 
of misty white clouds. 

" Have they missed me yet, 1 wonder?'^ thought Estella. 
** Will that strange creature, Carlotta, tell them of my 
flight, and set them on my track? And is Boysten DarreU 
to live or die? Oh, if 1 only knew that /" 

She started up and hurried on again, like the hunted creat- 
ure she was. On, and on, and on, that long, interminable 
road, feeling neither c'aintness nor fatigue, in her burning 
eagerness to escape. 

Bhe met no one. She had the long, lonely road all to 
herself— poor, friendless waif, adrift on the world! 

Morning was dawning. Slowly the stars began to pale 
—slowly the moon waxed dim and melted away — slowly the 



' i; 



EBTELLA S IIUSBANI^ 



67 



first pink cloud of the sunrise blushed in the eastern iky. 
brighter and brighter grew those lines of orimson glimmer; 
one by one the birds awoke and began twittering drowsily 
in their nests. The cattle, asleep in the way-side fieldi^, 
lifted their dull heads. Signs of Viw everywhere awoke with 
the awakening day. Farm-houses and farm-yards were 
astir; the houses were growing more and more numerous, 
and Estella felt she was drawing near a village. 

** It must be H ,'' she thought, '* and 1 am nearly 

ten miles from Fisher's F'olly. Sixty long, long miles yet 
before Brooklyn is reachocl." 

She sighed wearily. These ton miles were beginning to 
tell upon one unused to lengthy walks. Her limbs ached, 
her feet were sore, and she felt faint and sick from inani- 
tion and want of food. 

The few early pedestrians she met stared at her, and 
looked back ai; the pale and jaded face and weary walk. 

To avoid them, and obtain a brief rest, she turned into 
X field, through which a sparkling brook ran, and threw 
herself on the yielding grass. 

'* How soft it feels! she murmured; " how cool, how 
tender! Mother Nature — the only mother I ever knew." 

She removed her hat, bathed her face and hands, and 
smoothed her hair. Next she took oft her shoes and stock « 
ings, bathed her blistered feet, and arose, feeling infinitely 
rested and refreshed. 

** If I only had something to eat!*' she thoiight '* I fee} 
as though 1 could walk all day. " 

She had half a dozen pennies in her pocket. She counted 
over her scanty hoard with wistful eyes. 

** Poor Dick! the last of his last gifts — a bright silver half 
dollar," she murmured. ** At least it will buy me a bun 
for breakfast. 1 will go into the village and find out if 1 
am on the right road to Brooklyn. " 

She walk^ briskly along, relieved and refreshed by her 
bath, and reached the straggling outskirts of the village as 
the church clock was striking seven. The bustle and stir 
of the new day had begun — shops were opening, house 
doors stood wide, many people passed her up and down the 
dusty street. She stepped into the first bake-shop she 
met, and laid down her handful of pennies. 

'VTen cents' worth of buns, please," she said to a fat 
woman behind the counter. 



68 



E8TELLi.'s HUSBAKP. 



The woman did them up in paper and handed them t« 
her, looking curiously at the pale young face. 

** You're a stranger here, am't you?'° she asked, famil- 
iarly. *' I know most every one in H , but 1 don't 

know you,'* 

" Yes," said Estella, ** I'm a stranger. I'm going to 
Brooklyn, if I can find the way. " 

** Find the way! Why, Lor'! you don't mean to walk 
it?" 

" Yer; it is straight on, isn't it?" 

" It's straight on, sure enough," said the woman, with 

a laugh; ** but it's rather a piece — sixty milet: from H . 

Hadn't you better take the stage? It passes at noon." 

** No, Jiank you," replied the girl, with a sigh. ** 1 
must walk. Good-morniDg. " 

She passed out of the shop into the sunlit morning. 
Sixty miles to Brooklyn, and Brooklyn only the first stage 
of that weary journey to Chelsea. What a wild-goose chase 
it looked! Wandering on an unknown journey to a strange 
land, as it seemed to her, in search of a relative she had 
never seen, who might be dead for what she knew; or, if 
alive and still at the old place, a relative who might scorn- 
fully refuse to acknowledge the wandering vagrant's claim. 
Her heart sunk in her bosom like lead. 

" It is all useless, all in vain!" she thought, with a de- 
spairing sob. " 1 had better lie down by the road-side and 
die. What will become of me? Why was I ever born, 
since I have no home, no parents, no friends no place 
in the wide world at all?" 

There had been a time when Estella had thought it a 
fine thing to be let loose upon the world to shift for one's 
self, to bo a heroine, a second Jane Eyre, adrift on the 
moors — but not now. The bitter reality of that most 
bitter fact, that she was homeless, houseless, a lost waif, 
wrecked upon the world, came home to her with its full 
despair. 

But she wandered on. Sixteen j^ears will not readily 
lie down and die, while one glimmer of hope remains. She 
wandered on, eating her buns by the way once the village 
was left behind, and the dusty stretch of road lay long and 
bright before her once more, losing itself in the sunlit sky. 

** I used to wish I had been born a gypsy," thought Es- 
tella, with a hysterical little laugh at her past folly, '^ free 



^STELLA'S HUSBAir». 



69 



n 



and happy, to stroll over the world, and sleep under waving 
trees, and tell fortunes in a scarlet cloak and blue petti- 
coat. 1 am getting my wish now, and I don't seem to care 
for it; and yet if I had company 1 thinly 1 should prefer it 
to life at Fisher's Folly. If Dick were only with me! 
But even to be alone — to be like this — is a hundred times 
better than being the wife of Roysten Darrell." 

The day wore on — the sun sailed higher — noon came, 
scorching, burning. Estella was growing unutterably 
weary, and yet she had hardly walked six miles. She had 
reached and passed a second village larger than the first, 
but she had not stopped — every hour of delay was an hour 
lost. She had plodded wearily on, hot and dusty, sun- 
burned and tired, hungry and thirsty, and faint. The quiet 
high-road was again reached, with swelling meadows^ 
spreading endlessly away on either hand, green and cooL 
Still on, still on, only pausing once beside a sparkling way- 
side well for a long, long draught; then again on, eating 
the last of her buns as she walked. The stage-coach from 

H to Brooklyn rattled past her in the early afternoon, 

filled with passengers, and, ah, with what wistful, hopeless 
eyes the girl looked at the lumbering conveyance bowl- 
ing along so swiftly to the goal she longed to gain I 

The afternoon was drawing to a close — her long day of 
ceaseless walking was coming to an end. Lengthy shadows 
fell athwart the road; the western sky was growing lumi- 
nous with the splendor of the sinking sun; farm-laborers 
passed her on their homeward way. She heeded nothing 
of it all. Her head and eyes ached until she seemed grow- 
ing blind; her blistered feet were like leaden weights; every 
bone in her body seemed a separate agony. Her throat 
felt parched and dry; the solid ground seemed heaving be- 
neath her feet; she felt she must drop down and lie where 
she fell. Fatigue and want of food were rapidly telling 
on this poor little wandering waif. 

As she staggered on, half blind with pain and weariness, 
an open barn-door caught her eye. It was nearly filled 
with hay. No one seemed to be near. It looked cool 
and inviting She tottered rather than walked forward, 
entered, made her way to the darkest and remotest corner, 
sunk down in a heap, and in five minutes was sleeping m 
though she were dead. 

That merciful sleep wrapped her for hours. Once, long 






ro 



BSTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



after midnight, she av^oke; all was dark, and the nlencd 
of the grave reigned. Too weary to feel either fear or 
loneliness in that strange and lonely place, she turned over, 
and slumber took her again in its blessed embrace. 

The sun was shining brightly, when, for the second time, 
she awoke. She arose on her elbow, drowsy and confused, 
and with an aching sense of unutterable weariness from 
head to foot. Those poor little feet felt sore and blistered, 
her joints felt stiff and numb, and she put back her tossed 
hair, and gazed around, with a dull sense of pain and be- 
vtrilQeriTipnt 

" Where am I?" Estella thought. " What place is this?" 

And then memory came back like a flash, and she remem- 
bered all. She arose stiffly, cramped and unrefreshed, 
from her hard bed, smoothed her hair, shook out her dress, 
and, kneeling down, said her simple morning prayer. 

** Take care of me, oh, Lordr' prayed poor Estella, 
•* for in all this cruel world there is no one to care whether 
I live or die. " 

She walked to the door. If she could only pass out, as 
she had entered, unobserved! But it was not to be. 

Face to face, on the threshold, she encountered a stal- 
wart young man. Both recoiled and stood staring. 

** The — deuce!" said the young man. ** Who are you?" 

Estella stood trembling — the pale picture of guilt. The 
young man eyed her in surprise and suspicion. 

" Who are you?" he reiterated. ** And what are you 
doing here?" 

** Nothing, please," the girl faltered. " I have done no 
harm — indeed, indeed, 1 have not! 1 only slept on the hay 
last night. " 

** Slept on the hay! Do you mean to say you have been 
all night in the barn?" 

" Yes, please," still more falteringly. '* 1 was very 
tired-, I had walked all day; 1 could go no further, and 
so I — I saw the door open, and went in and lay down, and 
fell asleep before I knew it. Don't be angry, please — I 
don't think I have done any harm." 

** Good Lord!" cried the young farmerj ** listen to her! 
No harm! Why, you'll get your death, whoever you are! 
A young girl sleeping in such a place as that! Why the 
dickens didn't you come to the house and ask mother to 
let you stay there?" 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



?1 



Estella lifted her eyes for the first time — those pathetic, 
liouid brown eyes. It was a rough face, this young farm- 
er s, but a good one, and two kindly gray eyes stared at her 
in frank wonder. Then she looked down again, and a 
loTely, flitting color rose in her pale face. 

** I had no money," she said, simply. " How could I 
«sk?'' 

*' Money be — darned! We don't keep an inn. What's 
your name?' ' 

" Estella Mallory." 

** And where do you come from?" 

'* From Rockledge," answered the girl, in whose truthful 
nature deception was unknown. 

"Whew! You don't mean to say you've walked all 
that?*' 

*' Yes, sir." 

** And where are you going, pray?" 

** To Brooklyn, if I can. I am trying to find my 
friends. " 

'* Have you friends in Brooklyn?" 

** I have friends further on. Please let me pass — it is 
time I was going." 

'* Not just yet," said the young man, resolutely; ** not 
without your breakfast. Here — come along with me!" 

He led the way in long strides without more ado. Es- 
tella followed him across the road, to a commodious farm- 
house, through whose open door she could see a bounteous 
brefikfast-table spread. 

A comfortable-looking matron met them at the door, 
and gazed wonderingly at her son's pale companion. 

" Here, mother," said the young man, ** give this girl 
her breakfast. She's going on to Brooklyn, and — didn 1 1 
hear you say Deacon Miles was going up to Brooklyn to- 
day?" 

*' Yes; but he's gone, I reckon." 

" I'll step across and see. Go in, my girl, and eat your 
breakfast. You look as though you needed it. Make her 
comfortable, mother, and don't bother her with questions 
until I come back. " 

He strode off, whistling. The woman looked at her 
son's protegee from head to foot, but not unkindly, while 
poor Estella hung her head, mortified and ashamed. 



m 
* 

I 



ii 



^. ^' 



If f| 



n 



bstella's husbakd. 



** Come in," said the woman, gently. ** You do look 
beat out. Here, nit down, and eat as much as you can." 

She placed a chair at the table, and poured out a cup of 
fragrant coffee. She asked no questions, and Estella wai 
ft great deal too hungry to stand upon ceremony. 

She eat down at once, and eat and drank with keenest 
relish. Before she had finished her meal the young man 
was back. 

** It's all right," he said, with a nod to his mother. 
'* The deacon's going, and he'll make room for her. Don't 
hurry yourself, you know; but, as soon as you've finished, 
come along with me. " 

** I have finished, thank you," said Estella, rising; *' and 
I am very, very much obliged." 

"Not a bit! Come along." 

She followed him out, down the road, and paused with 
4im before a house at whose gate a horse and wagon stood. 
A fat, good-humored-looking man sat in the Front seat, 
folding the reins. 

** Here's the girl, deacon," said the young farmer. ** She 
iui't quite a ton weight Now, my lassie, pile in." 

** But—" Estella faintly began. 

"* All right! all right! exclaimed the farmer, impa- 
tiently. ** The deacon's going to Brooklyn, and he's gomg 
to give you a lift. In with you! My time's precious." 

He hustled her into the back seat, and before the be- 
wildered Estella could fully realize it, the light wagon was 
rattling merrily along over the sunlit country road. 

She gave a backward glance, and saw her sunburned 
champion trudging swiftly back to his breakfast. 

** That's John Styles, my dear," quoth the deacon, 
*' and the best young man I ever knew. How lucky he 
chanced to come across you this morning! Slept all night 
in his hay>barn, he tells me, and meant to walk all the 
way to Brooklyn. You never could do it, my tl^/r — 
never! What are you leaving home for?" 

" I have no home," Estella said, mournfully — " no 
rightful home. The person I lived with at Rockledge was 
very unkind to me — so unkind that I had to run away." 

The old man shook his head. 

*' Bad, bttd, bad!" he said *' A young girl could hai-dly 
do worse. And where are you going?" 

" I have JO. aunt in Chelsea, Massachusetts; I am going 



bstella's husband. 



73 



to her if I can ever find the way. Perhaps you know, sir? 
Will you kindly tell me what I must do when I get to Brook- 
lyn?'*' 

The trembling eagerness of the question — the tears in 
the large, earnest eyes — touched the old man. 

** You poor, unfortunate baby I" he said. ** It's a 
shame and a sin to have any one so youiig and so pretty 
tospiug loose about the world like this. How will you get 
rhere? Why, you'll cross over to New York, and go down 
to the pier and buy your ticket, and get on board the 
steamer. That's what you'll do. The boat leaves at six. 
You can start this evening." 

*' Thank you, sir. And will the steamer take me to 
Boston?" 

" Not dir 3t Never mind; I'll fix that. Have you 
any money?" 

" No, sir," blushing hotly; " but I have a gold chain 
and cross. They were my mother's. I meant to sell 
them to pay my way." 

**Poorcnild! Well, don't talk about it now. Try and 
go to sleep again. You look fitter for a sick-bed than 
traveling about. I'll see that everything's right. I have 
a girl of my own — ^your age, too, but not half so pretty— 
and I know how I should feel if she were knocking about 
like you. Go to sleep, and I'll send yon to Chelsea all 
right." 

The girl obeyed, worn out in body and mind. Her hea^I 
drooped heavily against the hard back of the wagon, and 
sleep, the pitiful, took her once more, and folded her in 
peaceful unconsciousness. The sudden stoppage of the 
wagon aroused her. She started up, broad awake, and 
found herself alone in the vehicle. A rough-looking boy 
held the horse's head, and they stood outside the door of a 
public-house. It was past noon^ and the day had changed 
while she sslept. Dark clouds scudded over the sky, and 
the damp, rising wind gave promise of speedy rain. 

" Where is he?" asked Estella, terrified. ** Where has 
he gone?" 

*' He's here, my dear," replied the cheery voice of the 
deacon, appearing at the door. ** Come, it's two o'clock, 
and high time you had some dinner. Get down. " 

** But I am not hungry, thank you." 

** No matter — ^you will be, and there may be no time t« 



In 

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estella'3 husband. 



spare when we roach Brooklyn. Qet down at onoe, and 
'.ake a cup of tea. " 

He was not to be refused. He assisted her out, and led 
her into th? house, and into a room where a dinner-table 
was spread, and a woman presidmg. 

" N'>v,% then," said the deacon, ** the sooner you let ue 
have dinner, Mrs. Beers, the better." 

Dinner was served immediately — beefsteak and potatoes, 
with tea and apple-tart to follow. Estella scarcely touched 
anything; her head throbbed, her limbs ached — every joint 
was sore and stiff. She was glad when it was over, and 
they were baci<: in the wagon. 

** How long before we reach Brooklyn?" she timidly 
inquired. 

In two hours or less. 1^11 take you straight to the city, 
and see you safely on board the boat. " 

** But the trouble. You are very, very kind; but it is 
too much to ask." 

** You haven't asked, my dear," said the good-humored 
old deacon. ** I do it for my own peace of mind. Why, 
that pale face of yours would haunt me the rest of my 
life-time if I deserted you in that big, bad city. And be- 
sides, Where's the use of being a professed Christian and a 
deacon in the church if we don't act up to it? Don't you 
fret, my little girl; I'll see you safely through." 

There was no reply — Estella's heart was too full for 
words. Ah! all the world were not Peter Fishers and Roy« 
sten Darrells, and the Father of the orphan had heard her 
prayer, and taken care of His helpless child. 

The afternoon wore on, darkening fast. The threatening 
rain would fall before night; and Estella shivered as the 
damp wind struck her. Would she be really safe this 
night, or would she be houseless and adrift in the storm? 

They reached Brooklyn before five, and Estella's head 
reeled with the magnitude and bustle of the City of 
Churches. The deacon did not stop; they crossed the 
Fulton Ferry at once, and plunged into the noise, and 
bustle, and uproar of mighty New York. 

** What do you think of this, my deav?" shouted her 
companion, above the din. ** Goes a leetie ahead of Rock- 
ledge, doesn't it?" 

But the girl was incapable of reply. Pale and f rightened« 



II 



estella's husband. 



75 



she gazed around her, deafened, stunned. The old man 
langhoil at her terrified face. 

• ' I don't think you like it much better than I do myself, 
and yet I suppose these people prefer these horrid streets 
to the peaceful country. They're to be pitied, I think; 
but it takes all sorts of folks to make a world." 

The country gig rattled up West Street to the particular 

Eier he wanted. Calling a boy to take charge of the ve- 
icle, he helped Estella out, left her standing in a quiet spot, 
and approached the ticket-ofhce. In a moment he was 
back beside her. 

'* Come on board now,'' he said. *' Here's your ticket 
for Boston. Not a word — this is opposition time, and it 
only cost a trifle. This way. " 

He led her to the ladies' cabin, at first sight of which 
abode of splendor she literally gasped for breath. A 
great many ladies were moving about or seated, and the 
deacon took his charge to a vacant sofa, and placed her 
there. 

" Now, then," he said, " I've done all for you I ca7i do, 
and 1 don^t think you'll haunt me for neglecting my duty. 
I'll speak to the stewardess about you, and she'll find you a 
berth. At six to-morrow morning you'll reach Newport; 
there you'll take the cars for Boston. Once you get to 
Boston, ask the first policeman vou meet to put you in 
a car for Chelsea — you understand?" 

"Yes, yes!" 

" Tell the conductor of the car where you want to get 
out. Have you your aunt's street and number?" 

"Yes, sir." 

'* You're all right, then. Now, good-bye and God blesg 
you!" 

He gave her hand a squeeze and hurried away, and once 
more the desolate wanderer was alone. She covered her 
face, and her tears fell. 

"How good he is!" she thought; "and I may never 
see him again! Ah, what a happy girl his daughter must 
be!" 

There was little time for tears, little chance for loneli- 
ness. As the deacon had said, it was opposition time, and 
the boat was literally crowded with passengers. 

The pale little country-girl sat and gazed around her, 
v^ith wide, wondering brown eyes, at the numbers and gay 



'lir 

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estella's husband. 



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dresses of the ladies. How much at home they all seemed, 
flitting hither and thither, laughing, chatting, and she — 
she was literal] v afraid to stir! 

The boat moved off from her moorings. The summer 
day had closed, wet and windy, the ram dashed against 
the cabin- windows, and the long gale sighed over the 
Sound. Bat within ths ladies' cabin all was brightness 
and plonsant bustle. The lamps were lighted, the ladies 
tripped about, gentlemen came and went, stewardesses sped 
swiftly hither and thither with refreshments — all was new 
ard novt^'. 

iat (ttella's head throbbed with that dull, torturing 
pai - h limbs^still ached. In the cosy heat of the cabin 
she . ( ch'iW to the bone. 

Her head ^ ik heavily against the back of the sofa— her 
burning eyes closed. Again sleep, that was almost stupor, 
took her, and everything around her was blotted out. 

A sound shaking awoke her. She opened her eyes and 
sat up, and stared vacantly into the face of a young 
mulatto woman. 

** Newport I" said the woman, sharply. " The boat 
will touch the wharf in five minutes. Wake up!*' 

She hurried away. Estella started to her feet, still be- 
wildered. 

Ladies, wrapped warmly up, and laden with bags and 
baskets, hurried by her and out to the gangway. Mechan- 
ically, the girl arose and followed the crowd. Not a mo- 
ment too soon— they were already at their moorings, and 
the rush for the cars had begun. 

Carried along, resistless — whither, she knew not, still 
only half awake — she found herself on the wharf, pushed 
on board the cars, amid a din and tumult that might have 
shamed Babel. A vacant seat, by some fortunate chance, 
was near. She dropped into it, her breath quite taken 
away. 

** You look as though you were half asleep still," said a 
voice »,t her elbcw — a laughing voice. " It iv rather con- 
f usinf'', this being routed out of bed in the gray and dismal 
dawr. Are you alone?" 

Eiitella looked at the speaker — a handsome, well-dressed 
young woman, who occupied the inside of the seat, and 
who was regarding her curiously. 

'* Am I alone?" repeated Estella, a little dazed. ** Yes, 



estella's husband. 



7T 



all alone. Please, where are we? and where are we going 
nowf 

** We are at Newport, and we are going to Boston, I 
hope, if nothing happens. Do you want to go to Boston?" 

** I want to go to Chelsea?" 

" Chelsea! Oh, you're all right, then, and v- yy fortu- 
nate in having secured a seat. How the cars ai. crowded, 
to be sure — half the poor wretches will have to stand. 
That comes of oppo-itiou lines and cheap traveling. Do 
you belong to Chelsea?" 

" No. Rockledge, New York. " 

**Ah! I don't know it. You're sick, ain't you? You 
do look dreadful miserable!" 

Estella pressed her hand to her burning forehead. 
That ceaseless, terrible pain "s still there; but this morn- 
ing she seemed to be one l *iu arable pain from head to 
foot. 

** My head aches," sh'^ su d, confusedly. ** It feels all 
wrong and stupid, somehow I'm not used to traveling — 
to being exposed. I'm afraid I'm going to be ill!" 

Her companion drew )k a little, with a look of alarm. 

*' It's not catching, is ic? I thought you looked sick 
when you came on board last night. It's not fever, or 
small-pox, or anything?" 

** No," replied Estella, drowsily; *' only I'm tired, and 
I think I've caught cold. I ache all over, and my heal 
burns. I didn't know I was sick before." 

And then her voice died away, and the poor head dropped, 
and that dull stupor came over her again, and she saw and 
heard nothing distinctly. 

Some one came and took her ticket and spoke to her, 
and there was a great deal of noise, and a sickening, uneasy 
motion everywhere; but nothing was real — nothing was 
distinct. She saw and heard as we see and hear in a dream. 

Presently, she was standing on the platform, borne along 
once more by the crowd. All around her din and tumult, 
uproar and confusion. She stood lost, dazed, stupefied. 

*' Do you know the way to Chelsea? "What on earth ails 
the child? Shall I put you on a Chelsea car?" 

She lifted her heavy eyes, and saw the face of her late 
companion — the lady of the train. 

"Yes, r^lc^se. No. — Poplar Street." 

She rt mbered the street and number dimly, but sht 



III 

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78 



ESTELLA's HUSIIAND. 



was incapable of further effort. The lady drew her im- 
patiently iilong. 

** CoLMB this way — quick! I never saw such a bewild- 
ered face in all my life, and you're aH ill as you can be. 
Have you any money?" 

** Yes — no; I'm going to sell my crt)ss. That will take 



ne. 



Gracious me! is the girl an escaped lunatic? I never 
beard anything like this in all my life. I'll put you on 
board the car, and here's a dime to pay your fare. I de- 
clare, if you have any friends, they ought to be ashamed of 
themselves.'' 

" I have no friends," said Estella, slowly. '* I ran away; 
I am all alone." 

Her companion eyed her with a whimsical mixture of 
compassion and distrust, but just then, their particular car 
appearing, she motioned the conductor, with an air of in- 
tense relief. 

An instant later, and Estella was on board and seated, 
and the lady was speaking a hurried word to the conductor. 

** She is a perfect stranger, and utterly incapable of tak- 
ing care of herself. She wants to go to No. — Poplar 
Street. Let her down as near it as possible, and direct her 
which way to go." 

The man nodded, and the car rattled on. They crossed 
the bridge; they rattled on again. Directly the car 
stopped, and the conductor tapped Estella on the shoulder. 

** You get out here," he said; ** turndown this way, and 
you are in Poplar Street. Go along up until you come to 
No. — ." 

He helped her off, and left her standing in the street 
She stood a second and then turned as he had told her, 
and walked into Poplar Street. 

Looking at the houses as she walked along, she came at 
last to the number she wanted — a large, white house, with 
cool, green blinds, and a couple of green trees in front. 

She ascended the painted steps and rang the bell. 
While she waited she leaned against the door-post to keep 
from falling. A strange dizziness made her head reel 
and her eyes half blind with the intensity of pain. A 
drizzling rain was falling, but she never felt it; she shiv- 
ered in the summer wind without knowing it. 



estella's husband. 



79 



at 
th 

11. 



CHAPTER X. 

HELEN MA LLOR Y. 

The door opened, after a weary while, it eeemed to the 
waiter, and the face of an elderly woman, framed in a 
black cap, looked out. 

** What ia it?*' a sharp voice asked. 

Estella lifted her heavy eyes by an efifort. 

** Does Helen Maliory live here?'* 

'* Helen Mall cry ?*' repeated the woman, angrily. 
** Miss Mallorv lives here! Who are you, with your 
* Helen Maliory?' *' 

** I am Estella Maliory." 

The woman recoiled with a shrill cry. An instant she 
stood spell-bound, as it seemed, by that answer; then, 
seiaing the girl by the arm, she drew her in. 

*' For the Lord's sake, come in and let me look at you! 
Estella Maliory! Here, sit down — you look fit to drop! 
Miss Helen! for goodness gracious' sake, come here!" 

" What is it, Norah?" asked a soft voice — ** what is the 
matter?" 

** Come here, for mercy's sake, and look at this girl! 
She says she's Estella Mallorv^ and she's asking for you. 
Come quick! She looks as if she were dying." 

Some one ran swiftly down-stairs, and Estella saw a lady 
in a gray silk dress, with pale face, and large, dark eyes, 
bending above her. 

She drew her little book, her chain and cross from her 
bosom, and held them out. 

** They were my mother's, and you are my mother's 
sister. 1 am very tired and ill, and — " 

She said no more. The floor heaved— the wall spuiL ' 
She put out her hands, blindly, to save herself, and NoraL, 
caugnt her as she fell. 

4: ♦ ♦ 4c * 4r ♦ 

** How does she seem now, Norah?" 

** Better, miss, 1 think. She's had a nice, long sleep, 
and I am going to give her her beef -tea." 

Estella, waking from a long, heavy sleep, as it seemed, 
leard these words dimly. Some one raised her L ad — some 
one held a cup of something to her dry lips. 




I 

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in 



ao 



estella's husband. 



Sho drank, opening her eyes drowsily for a moment, 
then sank back among the pillows with a delicious senM 
of rest 

** Poor child 1*' said the first speaker, compassionately; 
** how deathly white — how awfully thin sho isl And yet, 
Korah, it is her mother's face over again. No one could 
mistake Estella's child." 

The sick girl heard no more. The deep sleep of con- 
Talescence came over her and lulled her to blessed rest. 

When she awoke, the noon-day sun was streaming in 
dazzling chinks through the closed blinds. She lay very 
■till, and gazed dreamily around her. It was a large, cool, 
])lea6ant chamber, prettily furnished — half bedroom, half 
sitting-room — and the low white bed whereon she lay was 
the softest and most luxurious she had ever reposed on. 

The woman Norah sat in a rocking-chair, busily knit- 
ting, and a big gray cat nestled comfortably at her feet 
It was such a pleasant picture of rest and peace that tke 
tired little wanderer could have Iain and looked forever. 

Slowlv, very slowly, memoir began to drift back. Where 
was sher what room was thisr who was that woman? 

She lay and thought, still and motionless. It all came 
back, little by little — Peter Fisher — Roysten Darrell — the 
runaway marriage — that awful night in the attic — the ill- 
ness — Oarlotta — the poisoned draught — the flight— the 
J'onrney. And this was Helen Mallory's, no doubt, and 
ler dead mother's sister had taken the lost waif to her heart 
and home. 

And Eoysten Darrell — was he dead? and did Helen Mal- 
lory know? Would Mr. Fisher guess whither she had gone, 
and write the terrible story? Would they come in search 
of her here, and drag her forth to stand her triai for mur- 
der? 

She turned her face to the wall, trembling from head 
to foot with unutterable dread. Oh, what would become 
of her, if Eoysten Darrell was dead? 

The chamber-door opened softly — there was the gentle 
rustle of a woman's dress; some one crossed the room 
lightly, and bent above hei*. She lay quite still — never 
moving, nev er opening her eyes. 

*' How is she, Norah?'' a low voice asked. '* She if not 
awake?" 

No, miss; she sleeps as somid and peaceful as a baby. 



<« 



istella's husbakd. 



81 



li- 
te. 



poor lamb! She'll wako up, clear and reasonable to-day, 
the doctor thinks. Poor little soul! what she must have 
comu throiij^h!" 

'* Norali," suid the soft voice, "come here and look 
at her. Look at that childish, innocent fucu, unU tell me 
if she looks like a married woman?*' 

** A married what?*' cned Norah, in shrill horror. 
*'Th&.t child married! Miss Helen, what do you mean?" 

*' Or a would-be murderess?'* continued the soft voice, 
in tones of suppresseJ excitement — *' a wife who has tried to 
poison her husband? Tell me— does she look like that?" 

'* Miss Helen, for the dear Lord's sake, what do yea 
mean?'' 

** That olil man — that bad, vindictive old man — accuses 
her 0^ being both. Norah, this morning's post has brought 
an answer to my letter." 

** From Mr. Peter Fisher?" breati.l«^s8ly. 

'* From Peter Fisher — yes! A letter that is a tissue 
of lies from' beginning to end. This child has suiiered as 
few girls of hor age have ever suffered, I am convinced. 
Listen, Norah, I will read it to you. But are you sure 
she sleeps?" 

*' Sure a?»d certain, Miss Helen. She has never opened 
her eyes since her morning draught. She won't hear you 
— never fear." 

Helen Mai lory drew a letter from her pocket, and began 
to read aloud. 

Low as the sweet voice was, the sick girl heard every 
word. 

" ' RocKLEDGE, Avgust 4, 18 — . 

" * Miss Helen Mallory, — Madame, your favor of 
the 20th of July has duly come to hand. Its receipt and 
contents did not surprise me. I expected it. I knew, 
when that miserable girl fled from the home v;hich has 
sheltered her for over sixteen years, she would fly to you. 

** ' And now permit me to rectify one or two little mis- 
takes in your letter. You speak of your niece, Estella 
Mallory, There is no such person. The runaway you are 
sheltering is Mrs. Roysten Darrell> M'ha has wickedly fled 
from her home and her husband. If that v/ere her only 
crime, one might try to forgive it, but she is also — 1 tell 
it with grief and horror — an attempted murdartsss! Before 
she fled from Fisher's Folly, dio tried to t;ike her hu» 



I! 



In 

II' 

r 



i 

I' 



b/v kstella's husband. 

band's life — she tried to poison him. That she did not 
succeed, no thanks is due to her — she administered an over- 
dose. Captain Roysten Darrell has recovered, and has 
quitted Rock ledge. He is a seafaring man, and a husband 
worthy a better wife. There was no time for him to pur- 
sue and recapture his fugitive bride, but he will be back 
here in three or four months at the f urtherst, fully pre- 
pared to press his rightful claim. Let your niece, Estella 
i )arrell, deny these facts, if she can. If you. Miss Helen 
Maliory, choose to shelter a runaway wife, you can do so, 
and abide the consequences when her husband returns. If 
she will come back to my protection, all will be forgiven, 
and Captain Darrell, who is iiifatuatedly fond of her, will 
thankfully overlook the past, and take her back. 1 re- 
main, madame, yours to command. 

" Peter Fisher.' " 



Miss Maliory paused, very pale, and looked at her old 
servant. 

" 1 have finished," she said. '* What do you think of 
this terrible letter, Norah?" 

*' What you thought five minutes ago," burst out Norah, 
indignantly — '* that it is lies from beginning to end! That 
girl a wife! that girl a poisoner! The wicked old sland- 
erer! 1 wish I had Peter Fisher here, and my ten finger- 
nails sunk in his face!" 

*'Hush!" said her mistress, starting up. *' You have 
awakened her!" 

She hurried to the bed ; she had heard a stifled sob. 

Estella lay, her face hidden in her hands, crying as she 
had never cried before in her life. 

'* Oh, my dear! m^ dear!" exclaimed Miss Maliory, in 
deepest distress, '* I never meant you to hear. 1 thought 
you were asleep. My child, my child, don't weep so! We 
don't believe one word of this bad, cruel, lying letter. " 

The girl looked up, her sobs ceasing suddenly, and the 
sad brown eyes gazed full into the face bending abo ^e her 
What a kind face it was — so full, so patient, so sweet! 

*' And yet it is true," she said, slowly. 

They were the first words she had spoken. 

Helen Maliory recoiled in alarm. 

"True!" 
In the letter, not in the spirit. 1 may be married to 



(< 



estella's husband. 



83 



juglit 
We 

the 
her 



to 



Roysten Darrell for what I know. I may have almost 
poisoned him. I only know I never meant it. " 

Miss Mallory stood gazing upon her, shocked, bewildered. 

"Married without knowing it! Guilty of poisoning 
without meaning it! My child, I don't understand you at 
all.'' 

** No," said Estella, mournfully. *' How should you? 
i hardly understand it myself. Dear lady, sit down beside 
me, and let me tell you all. I would have told you the 
day I came if I had been able. But I was ill, was I not?" 

'* Very ill, my poor child — like to die. But that is all 
past now." 

'* Ah! better for me perhaps if I had. How loiter is it 
ago?" 

" Over two weeks. You have had a fever, and been de- 
lirious nearly all the time. You are very weak still, and 
must not talk too much." 

'* Dear lady, it will not hurt me. I will never be at rest 
again until you know all my sad, miserable story. I am 
a very, very unfortuuatti glil. As you said a little while 
ago, I have suffered as few g rls of my age ever suffered 
before. Mr. Fisher has been so merciless to me that I 
don't think I can ever forgive him." 

'* I never knew him when he was anything else," said 
Helen Mallory. " I only wDnder — miser that he is — he 
has burdened himself with you so long. I wrote to him 
repeatedly to send you to me; but, out of pure contrari- 
ness, I suppose, he always refused. And he forced you into 
marrying this Captain Roysten Darrell? But, oh, my 
child, my baby! are you really, really married?" 

'* No!" said Estella, with sudden energy — " not in the 
sight of God. I am no man's wife, although I have stood 
up and gone through the marriage ceremony. I abhor 
Roysten Darrell from the bottom of my heart. He is a 
pirate — a lawless outcast — a murderer! 1 would die ten 
thousand deaths rather than be his wife for an hour!" 

And then Estella, slowly and brokenly — for she was piti- 
fully weak — told the story of her strange midnight mar- 
riage, of her terrible mistake. 

" I thought it was Dick Derwent. Poor Dick! I liked 
him; he was always good to me; he was my only friend. 
I would have married him to escape these two cruel men, 
and he would have done his best to make me happy, I 



In 

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ill*' 
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If 



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84 



estella's husband. 



know. But Roysten Darrell overheard, and had him ab. 
dacted by his lawless, outcast, smuggler crew, and came in 
his place, and took me away. I don't know who per- 
formed that mockery of marriage, but surely no minister 
of the church would be guilty of so heinous a crime.*' 

*' Did you love this Dick Derwent.^" Helen Mallory 
asked. 

*' Love Dick? Oh, no! But he was very fond of me, 
and very good to me, and I would have done anything al- 
most in my desperation to escape Roysten Darrell. Poor 
Dick! Who knows what those bad, cruel men have made 
him suffer?" 

*' And then,*' said Helen, vividly interested, " what hap- 
pened when you found out your terrible mistake?'* 

The sick girl shivered from head to foot as she recalled 
that horrible night. Brokenly she told her listeners the 
story of her passionate refusal of Captain DarreH's claim — 
of the dreadful hours of that stormy night spent in the at- 
tic among the rats. 

** Pitiful Heaven!" Helen Mallory said, deathly pale. 
" To think that any human being could torture a helpless 
child in that manner! The merciless, horrible old man! 
And then?'* 

Estella related the last recollection she had — of falling 
senseless to the floor; of her waking to find Carlotta, her 
nurse. 

She told the pathetic story of that weary coming back 
to life, hopeless, in despair — of her compact with Peter 
Fisher. 

** I meant to kill myself when I made it,** she said. ** It 
seemed easy to die. What had I to live for? And I 
thought it only right to give my miserable life to save Dick. 
I promised to marry Roysten Darrell in the presence of 
witnesses if they would liberate poor Richard, and they 
agreed. But from the moment I made the promise I 
meant to end my life. Ah! it was wicked and dreadful, I 
know, but I think I was half mad with misery and despair. 

I mixed the poison with the wine, and Roysten Darrell 
came into the room and drank it when I was gone. I never 
meant it; I wanted to harm no one. I would far rather 
have died. I fled from the house, in the first confusion, 
and how I ever got here I don*t know. I think I was ili 
and delirious half the time.** 



ESTELLA^S HUSBAND. 



8d 



«( 



The good God guided you," Helen Mallory said, rev- 
erentially. '* My poor child — my poor, little, persecuted 
niece! Will such men as these ever find forgiveness, here 
or hereafter? But 1 know the reason of this compulsory 
marriage. I know why Peter Fisher tried to force you into 
hecoming the wife of his unprincipled friend in such mad 
haste." 

Estella looked at her in wonder. 

** You know?" she said. " Why, it has been my great- 
est wonder all through. I can't understand it at all. 
Koysten Darrell never cared for me, never took the slight- 
est notice of me before; and as for Mr. Fisher, I am cer- 
tain he never used to consider me in any way at all. What 
luas the reason?" 

*' The sudden discovery of your parentage. Yes, my 
child, you are no longer the poor, dependent waif, name- 
less and fatherless, an outcast in a cruel world, but the ac- 
knowledged daughter of a rich and distinguished nobleman. 
It sounds incredible, does it not — wildly and romantically 
improbable? But it is true," 

Estella lay and stared at her in silent wonder. 

** I wrote to Peter Fisher," Helen Mallory went on, 
*' early in May of my discovery, telling him to break the 
news to you, giving him your father's address, and the 
promise of a large reward, in that father's name, as soon 
as he would yield you up. I know now I was a fool and a 
spiteful enemy not to take your father straight to Fisher's 
Folly, to assert his right and claim you on the spot. But 
I had little love for him — little reftson to do him a good 
turn — and how was I to know you would suffer for my folly 
and vindictiveness? And Peter Fisher never showed you 
that letter?" 

" Never," said Estella, in breathless wonder. ** I never 
heard a word of all this. And I have really a father alive 
in the world?" 

** Very much alive, my dear," said Miss Mallory. 
** Meaning to keep so, I fancy, for an indefinite time. Not 
only a father, but a rich, and titled, and most aristocratic 
father. No less a personage than Count Gaston Amadie 
de Montreuiil" 

Her listener gave a little gasp, then lay perfectly still, 
listening with all her might. 

*' I had better tell you t^^e whole story," said Helen, 



'III. 
i» 

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1^ 



' r 

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1! 
If 



h^ 



iH. 



m 



estella's husband. 



slowly — " the story of your mother's wrongs and suffer- 
ings. Norah, it is an old tale to you. You had best go 
and see after dinner. Our little patient will be hungry, I 
dare say, by the time I have done." 

Norah rose and left the room. 

Helen looked at her niece with a sad smile. 

** She has been with us from my childhood — this faith* 
ful Norah — until now. She is more an old friend than a 
servant. She knows all I am going to tell you — your poor 
mother's mournful story. More than you know — is it not, 
my dear?" 

*' Except that I was born at Fisher's Folly, that she died 
there, and was buried in Rockledge Cemetery, and that her 
name was the same as mine (Estella Mallory), I know 
nothing. " 

*' Her maiden name, my child; she bid a right to a far 
prouder one, as you have, also, Estella de Montreuil. But 
we did not know it; she was faithful unto death, and kept 
her heartless husband's secret to the bitter end. For ne 
was heartless, dear child, though your father — as cruel and 
cold-blooded an aristocrat as ever brok- i loving heart I 
suppose it is romantic and sentimental m an old maid like 
me to believe in that standard dehifc^'on of poets and novel- 
ists — broken hearts; but if ever honian heart broke with 
sorrow and lost love, hers did. My poor, tender, faithful 
little sister!" 

The steady voice broke down -dhe tirned away her face. 
Great tears rose in Estella's brown eyes, as she gently took 
one of Helen's si .i u >r hands. 

*' Go f)n," flio waid. softly. 

** Let me b 
after a pause; " wnen ne came to us nrst — an exue — an 
impoverished foreigner, under a false name, as a teacher 
of his native language. Monsieur Kaoul he called himself 
— a handsome fellow enough, though I never liked his looks- 
or his manners, faultless as were both. Ho was like a 
hero of romance, dear — I suppose you read romances? — 
tall, and dark, and distinguished, and melancholy-looking, 
with great, pathetic, black eyes, a sallow face, and waving 
masses of jet-black hair. Yes, he was very handsome, and 
very elegant, and very accomplished. He could talk in 
that deep, musical voice of his for hours, and hold us all 
spell-buund with tales of fai:- foreign lands — of his own 



agin ac the beginning," Miss Mallory said, 
** when he came to us first — an exile- 



.,-(-!: 



]l 



estella's husband. 



87 



beautiful Paris; he could sing, he could play, he could 
waltz, as only Frenchmen can. He could do everything, 
in fact, that was fascinating, and shallow, and irresistible, 
and the short of the matter was that poor Stella fell madly 
in love with him before she had known him a month." 

"So should I," said Estella, with kindling eyes. "I 
only wonder yo2i did not. Aunt Helen." 

** That is right, my dear — call me Aunt Helen. No, I 
did not fall in love with him. I did not even like him, 
and besides I was hardly twenty then, and very much in 
love with somebody else. But my sister Stella loved him 
enough for both; she was blind, and mad, and utterly in- 
fatuated; the sun rose when he came and sunk when he 
went, and Monsieur Raoul bounded the whole scheme of 
the universe to her. Before the end of the second month 
all was over; she fled from home, from kindred, giving un 
all the world for him. We never saw her again. Peter 
Fisher's letter, telling us she was dead and buried, a year 
and a half after, was the first tidings of my lost sister we 
received. My child , if I were to talk for a century, I could 
never tell you how bitter the blow of that disgraceful flight 
was. We thought it disgraceful then- i know now that a 
week before ever she left her home she wa? hi"^ wedded 
wife. I know it now from his own lips— told i i sorrow 
and remorse when too late; but he had bound her by a 
solemn promise to keep his secret until he gs,ve Ler leave 
to reveal it, and she obeyed him well. She lied 'inJ made 
no sign that she was a wedded wife, sham fully deserted, 
and that her child had a right to bear one »of the oldest and 
most patrician names in France. For ht deserted her, 
Estella — cruelly, coldly dp ted her — v/hen tli^ ?!ews came 
that the star of the Frenc t]mpire had once more arisen, 
that Louis Napoleon had ascended the throne, aad that the 
name of De Montreuil v> as to shine once more in all its 
old luster. 

** The news came tc him in New York, where he and 
his wife were starving Logethor, and he left her alone and 
friendless, penniless and ill, and went back to France, 
burning with ambition. 

*' What was the pale, sickly girl he had married and 
lured away from her home, that she should stand between 
him and the glory that wrrt to be his under the Napoleonic 
dynasty? He left her to ive or die as she chose, aad it 



ill 

'till 

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II' 



ir 






if 



' 4,'..' 5^ 



Am 



lilil 



ESTELLA S HUSBAND. 

WM mercifully death. She would not return to the home 
she had left, since the secret of her marriage was to be kept 
a secret still, and by the strangest of all strange elections 
she chose to go to old Peter Fisher. She had known him 
when a child — he was remotely connected with our moth- 
er's family; she knew his address, and, sick and starvmg., 
she sought the shelter of his wretched home — to die! 

" He took her in — you were born, and three months 
after he laid her beneath the clay. Then, and not till 
then, he wrote to us the ending of that bright young life! 
There was no one to receive the news but me — a miserable, 
lonely girl—our father and mother had followed one another 
to the grave, broken down, disgraced, heart-sick with sor- 
row and shame. My sister Stella was dead, and had left 
her baby daughter with him, and he meant to rear her and 
bring her up to be a daughter to hiia in his old age. How 
well he kept that promise we know, don't we, Estella?" 

" I have had a lonely life and a hard life," the sick girl 
said; *' but he never turned out a merciless tyrant until of 
late. Go on. " 

** I answered his letter — a few sharp, bitter lines. My 
heart was very sore — my life was blighted— I had given up 
my betrothed husband when our disgrace came— proudly 
and passionately I ^iud refused him. I would disgrace no 
name, I said — cast dishonor upon no honorable name. 

" So George Bartram left me and wedded another bride, 
and I had little reason to care whether my dead sister's 
nameless child lived or died. I settled down to dreary 
old maidenhood, with rancorous bitterness in my heart for 
Monsieur Raoul, hating the whole French nation for his 
sake, and with my faithful Norah, dragging out my lonely, 
loveless, imperfect life. 

\ ** But as years went on I softened. My sister's memoi-y 
grew less bitter. I felt a desperate longing for something 
to love. I yearned to look upon the face of her child. I 
wrote to Peter Fisher then, asking him to send you to me, 
but he persistently refused. At last I gave it up. I 
ceased writing to him altogether until your father cam« 
and changed all. 

" It was one day, late last April — a dreary, wet day — as 
I sat here alone, that the door-bell rang, and Norah an- 
swered it. An instant later I heard her wild scream. I 



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started up, hurried down-stairs, and found myself, after 
over seventeen years, face to face with Monsieur Kaoul! 

*' I knew him instantly, and he knew me. Time had 
changed him but little. Handsome as ever, elegant as 
ever, self-possessed as ever, he looked me full in the face, 
held out his hand and spoke my name. For me, I turned 
sick as death. My dead sister rose up out of her grave, a 
reproachful ghost; and I think if I had had strength, I 
would have struck him in the face with my open hand. 
But I leaned speechless against the wall— sick and tremb- 
ling from head to foot. 

** * Then you don't know,' were the first distinct words 
I heard him utter — * she never told? Helen Mallory, I 
come to you for news of my wife!' 

" * Your wife!* I gasped. * Your wife — was my sister 
JJstella— ' 

" * My wedded wife — yes, before ever she left her fa- 
ther's house to follow my fortunes. Where is she now? I 
come to claim her at last!' 

** I looked at him, growing cold and calm all at once. 

** * You come rather late in the day. Monsieur Raoul,' I 
said. * Death — a more faithful bridegroom than you — 
claimed her sixteen years ago. You will find a handful of 
bones and ashes in "Rockledge Cemetery, if you choose to 
go there and seek. But she was your wife — thank God for 
that! Though you have murdered her — thank God for 
that!" 

** He turned ghastly white. Estella, full as my heart 
was of horror and hatred of thai man, I almost pitied him 
then. 

"'Dead!' he said. *Dead! I feared it. I knew it! 
Oh, Estella, my wife, my wife!' 

" ' You murdered her,' I repeated, steadily, ' as much 
as though you had plunged a knife in her heart — only hers 
was a more lingering death. But she kept your secret 
well — she was faithful to the end. I never knew she had 
the honor of being your wife. Monsieur Raoul, until this 
moment. ' 

'* * Spare me,' he said, in a broken voice. ' If I could 
give my life to recall her, I would. I loved her, Helen 
Mallory, better than I ever loved earthly creature; but my 
accursed pride and ambition were still stronger than my 
love. And yet I never meant to desert her. I left her, I 



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estella's husband. 



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know, in poverty and loneliness, and went back to France; 
but, my fortunes retrieved, I wrote to her at once. I 
never received an answer. I wrote again and again, but 
always with a like result. I could not return and seek for 
her, and so I — I gave her up. I took it for granted she 
had returned to her home, had told all, was safely sheltered 
here, and too indignant at my long silence to reply when I 
did write. Heaven help me I and all the time my poor 
darling was dead. ' 

** * Yes,' I said, *your remorse and repentance. Mon- 
sieur Raoul, come sixteen years too late. Let your pride 
and your ambition console you now if they can. Or, per- 
haps, monsieur has wedded a fairer and wealthier bride — 
one he need never desert or be ashamed of? Surely all 
these years he has not been faithful to the memory of the 
poor, little, love-struck girl, who gave up all the world for 
sake of his handsome face, and whose heart he broke?' 

" He looked at me, deathly pale, with eyes of unutterable 
reproach. 

" * Yor are merciless,' he responded, ' but I deserve it. 
Yes, Miss Mallory, I have been faithful. No other love 
has ever supplanted your sister. Will you tell me how she 
died? Will you try to forgive, as you hope to be forgiven, 
or must I leave you to find out for myself?' 

** * I will tell you nothing,' I answered, passionately. * I 
wonder you dare ask it. She is dead, and at rest — let fchat 
suffice. But her daughter lives, monsieur — her child and 
yours — render justice to her, if you like. Justice to the 
dead is beyond even your reach. ' 

'* And then, Estella, I told him of you — only keeping 
the place of your residence a secret. Peter Fisher's wishes, 
and your wishes, should be consulted first, I thought. 
What claim had this Frenchman upon the daughter he had 
never seen? 

** He listened in breathless, eager interest, his face glow- 
ing, his eyes kindling. 

** ' Let me go ' her!' he cried. ' Tell me where I may 
find my Stella's child. Everything her heart can desire 
shall be hers; for listen, Helen Mallory — he whom you call 
Monsieur Kaoul is Count Gaston De Montreiiil, one of the 
richest and most powerful noblemen in the French realm. 
Let me find my child, and atone through her to her dead 
mother. ' 



estella's husband. 



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** But I refused — coldly, resolutely refused. 
I will write to her guardian/ I said, frigidly, 



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* to the 
protector in whose care her dying mother left her. If he 
chooses to resign her — well; if not, I will never tell you, 
Count Gaston De Montreuil. What claim have you upon 
her? Come back to me, in a fortnight — you shall kave 
her guardian's answer then.' 

** He pleaded, he begged, all in vain. I was inexorable. 
I turned my back upon him, and left him standing in the 
hall, my heart harder and more bitter to him than ever. 
I went up to my room, and wrote that letter to Peter 
Fisher — that letter you never saw, and which he never an- 
swered. 

** I suppose Count de Montreuil was too proud to plead 
further, but at the end of the fortnight he came again. 
No reply had been returned to my letter, and I took Peter 
Fisher's silence for refusal of my proposal. I told him so, 
and he looked bitterly disappointed. 

** ' And I am obliged to return to France in three days,' 
he said. ' The diplomatic business which has brought me 
to this country is satisfactorily concluded. 1 77iust return, 
and there is no time left to search for my child. But, 
Helen Mallory, you are a more pitiless enemy than ever I 
thought it possible for you to be. 

" * I am what you and your doings have made me,' I 
answered. ' I would not swerve an inch out of my way to 
do you a good turn, Monsieur le Comte. I have done for 
you all I will do, unless your daughter's guardian relents — 
in that case I will write, if you choose to leave me your ad- 
dress. I have the honor. Count De Montreuil, to wish you 
good-day.' 

" And so we parted — he to return to France, I to resume 
my lonely life. But he left me his address, in case I should 
ever have occasion to write to him of you. 

" And now, Estella, you know all. Your father is a 
rich and powerful nobleman. As his daughter, all the 
splendor of this world may bo yours. You may shine in 
brilliant foreign courts; you will be feted, and flattered, 
and caressed; you will be Mademoiselle de Montreuil, sole 
heiress of a princely fortune. 

" You have but to say the word, and I will write. But 
remember, Estella," and Helen Mallory'sdark eyes glowed 
with tlie deep vindictiveness oi long years, ** he broke youi 



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mother's heart, he blighted her life — he loved the power 
and glory of wealth and ambition a thousand times better 
than ho over loved you or her. He left her to d'n}, cruelly, 
heartlessly — no after remorse can alter that fact. In going 
to your father, you go straight to the murderer of your 
mother/' 

*' I will never go!" exclaimed Estella, passionately. ** 1 
would die first! What do I care for his wealth or his title? 
Let him keep both, and bestow them upon whom he likes, 
since they were the price of my mother's life. I will never 
go to him, never acknowledge Count De Montreuil as my 
father!" 

** Think well," said Helen, ** there may be no after- 
choice. Take time, and think of all you give up." 

** There is no need. If I thought for a year long, my 
resolution would be the same. I never knew him; I don't 
want to know him now — a father who would be ashamed, 
beside, of the little, awkward, ignorant country girh Let 
him go, let us forget him; I never wish to hear his name 
more. But you, Aunt Helen — you will give poor Essie a 
little corner of your heart and home?" 

She held out her arms. Helen Mallory folded her close 
to her breast, with almost a mother's passion. 

** Forever, my darling! And, when Aunt Helen dies — 
and she will not be along liver — dear child, all she has will 
be yours. It is no princely fortune I can offer, but still a 
fortune with which all the pleasures and gayeties of this 
life may be yours. Only love me, Estella — for I am a 
lonely, loveless woman — and promise never to leave me 
while I live." 

" I promise!" Estella said, solemnly. 

And then silence fell between them, and both were lost 
in sad thought. 

There was a little pang of remorse at Helen Mai lory's 
heart for what she had done, but she resolutely refused to 
harken to its sting. 

*' I have done right," she said,, obstinately, to herself. 
*' What claim has this bad, ambitious Frenchman to my 
dead sister's child? As she says herself, he would be 
ashamed of her. He was ashamed to acknowledge my sis- 
ter Rs his wife, and this poor child is still more unformed 
and under-bred. Let the haughty Frenchman go— she 



ESTELLA S HUSBAND. 



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chooses to stay with aio. T will provide for hor — make her 
happy — and leave her all when I die." 

Make her happy? Ah, human blindness! If flelen 
Mailory could have foreseen the future — have lifted one 
corner of that invstic curtain which hides our destiny — how 
she would have shrunk in iiorror from the future she was 

Slanning for her niece I Hut that tragic future was hid- 
en, and Estella went on blindfolded to her Fate. 



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CHAPTER XI. 

THE CONQUERING HERO. 

Estella Mallory recovered rapidly. Youth, and hope, 
and a strong constitution speedily triumphed over the 
weary illness that had held her a prisoner for weeks. And 
they were so kind to her — Aunt Helen and the faithful 
Norah. No mother, over her tirst-born, could be more 
devoted than Helen Mallory to this beloved niece. By 
night and by day she hovered about her, never tired of 
ministering to her invalid wants, of coaxing that sick ap- 
petite, of reading aloud, of conversing. All Estella's 
former life, as far back as she could remember, was hers, 
and, in return, Aunt Helen told her of the one romance 
of her own lonely existence — that little love story, blighted 
forever by her only sister's supposed disgrace. 

** Perhaps I was wrong,'' Helen said, with a sigh, ** for 
I loved him dearly, and he loved me, and no act of any 
third person should have come between us. But I was 
proud and bitter, and I gave him up, and made both our 
lives desolate. For, though George Bartram married an- 
other, he never loved his wife as he loved me. I knew it 
from his own dying lips. And I — ah, Essie! the dreary, 
weary, lonely years I have dragged through — my heart 
empty and cold and heavy as stone! I never look upon 
his brother's face but that the old pang of parting comes 
back, bitterer than death!" 

** His brother?" 

** Yes, my dear— Alwyn Bartram, his only brother, 
many years younger than poor George, and his living im- 
age. He comes here to see me sometimes. He knows our 
story, Essie, and his presence seems like a link between the 
iiving and the dead. For George left no children, and hia 



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wife is married again, and Alwyn is the lasfc of the Bar* 
trains. You ought to see him, Essie, my little hero-wor- 
shiper. He is handsome as a demi-god, and an author, 
and an artist, and everything that is deh'ghtful. If I 
could see my little girl Mrs. Alwyn Bartram, I think I 
would cease to regret all the lost years of my life.'' 

Estella laughed and blushed, but her face darkened 
also. 

** You forget. Aunt Helen," she said; *' I can neyer 
marry. Captain Darrell may oome here and claim me." 

** Let him try it I*' impetuously cried Helen. '* Let 
him dare to try it! No no! he and Peter Fisher know 
better than that. ^ The best laid plans of mice and men 
gang aft aglee,' and theirs have gone in this case. Set 
your heart at rest, Estella. You might marry to-morrow, 
cor all they dare interfere. Captain Darrell has no more 
claim upon you than he has upon me." 

** You think so. Aunt Helen? You really think so?" 

** I know so, my dear. In the first place, I do not be- 
lieve any clergyman was ever base enough to perform that 
ceremony. In the second, even if a clergyman did, such 
a marriage would be null and illegal, and lay both him aDd 
all concerned open to prosecution. Forget all about it, 
Estella. It is only an unpleasant episode of the past that 
can never harm you in the future. Y'"ou are as free as the 
wind that blows, and may marry my favorite, Alwyn, to- 
morrow, and snap your fingers at lioysten Darrell." 

But Estella was in no hurry to marry. She had enough 
of that for one while. It was very pleasant to know that 
she was free and safe; and convalescence went on so rap- 
idly that in another week she was able to move about and 
spend the bright summer days in her arm-chair by the 
window. 

Very pretty looked the pale invalid m her delicate white 
wrapper, lighted up with rosy ribbons, her bright brown 
ha'r freshly curled and perfumed, and the tint of a blush- 
rose dawning in the thin cheeks. 

*' Alwyn ought to see you now," Helen Mallory said, 
her dark eyes fall of love and pride. '* You might sit for 
one of the Madonnas he likes so much to paint, with that 
Bweet moonlight face of yours, so spiritual and so lovely. 
Perhaps I ought not to tell you, my pet; but you know 



i) 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



you are pretty, I dare say, and Alwyn, with his artist's 
eyes, will go wild over you when he comes." 

And Estella laughed, and blushed beautifully, and was 
pleased beyond everything, and took a prolonged survey 
of herself in the mirror when injudicious Aunt Helen went 
out. 

^^ Am I pretty?" she wondered. " I never thought 
about my looks before, and I always was ugly in the 
horrid, dingy, shabby things I wore at Fisher's Folly. 
Dick liked me; but then — poor Dick — there weren't many 
beauties among the sunburned girls of Rockledge. I should 
like to be pretty — I should dearly like it; aud I hope — 1 
hope this handsome artist rnat/ admire me when he comes! 
Alwyn Bartram! such a dear, romantic name! And then^ 
oh, to think of his being a poet^ and an artist besides, and 
to know a poet and an artist has been the dream of my 
life!" 

And so, thanks to Aunt Helen and her foolish match- 
making, Estella's silly little head began to be filled to over- 
flowing with vain conceits and dreamy of this dark, unknown 
hero. 

She had read a little book, all blue and gold, *' Summer 
Dreams," by An Idler, and she knew the ** Idler " to be 
Mr. Alwyn Bartram, and to her the pretty, tender jingle 
of his love songs was the sweetest music on earth. It was 
an unconscious mixture of Alfred de Musset and Alfred 
Tennyson, and it had been a failure in the literary world, 
as all early volumes of poems seem destined to be; but to 
Helen Mallory and her niece it was as the music of the 
spheres, with every line worthy to be written in letters of 
gold. She had read his only novel, ** The Lady Olaribel," 
another literary failure — a tender, dreamy, misty, love-idyl; 
she had seen a portfolio of his drawings and water-color 
■ketches, and all, all had been perfection. She had gazed 
on his portrait, painted by himself — a handsome, dark-eyed 
fellow, with a high forehead, and a beautiful, sensitive 
mouth, and her heart had thrilled — that silly, romantic 
heart! — and had almost stopped beating at the delirious 
thought that one day she was destined to see, to speak to 
this wonderful being in broadcloth. 

The last of August found Estella quite well, and able to 
race np and down-stairs, and to explore her future home. 
A very nice house — full of large, airy, pretty apartments, 



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with an elegant drawing-room, where a grand piano held 
solitary state, and Mr. Alwyn Bartram's portrait smiled 
serenely down from the papered walls. A beautiful room 
to unsophisticated Estella, with its velvet carpet^ its 
amber-stained curtains, its carved and gilded chairs, its 
grand gasalier, its pictures and flowers and splendidly 
bound books. Aunt Helen laughed at the little country 
girl's raptures. 

*' Foolish child! it is only a very commonplace apart- 
ment, after all. Wait until you go into society — wait until 
you * come out,' and go to parties over in the city, and 
then you will see. My poor little drawing-room will look 
contracted and shabby enough in comparison with the un- 
told glories of Beacon Street. I seldom enter it myself, 
except now and then for an hour's practice. You can't 
play, of course; well, I shall teach you." 

And then Aunt Helen opened the piano, and sat down 
and played a few waltzes and marches, and threw her 
niece into a second ecstasy of delight. 

** Will I ever be able to play like that. Aunt Helen? Oh, 
how beautiful it is, and how happy you ought to be!" 

*' Ought I? Yes, I suppose so — if I were not the most 
nngratoful, discontented wretch alive. But I am happy 
now, since I have got my darling Essie, and I mean to oe 
happier, teaching her all I know — which isn't mnch. 
And," pinching the bright cheeks, ** happiest of all, when 
Alwyn Bartram comes and falls headlong in love witk 
her." 

Estella listened complacently. She heard such speeches 
as this so often that it was growing to seem quite a settled 
thing that her unknown hero should fall in love with her at 
first sight, and make her his wife out of hand. Miss Mal- 
lory had written to New York, where thisdemi-god resided, 
to invite him to Chelsea, and the demi-god had returned 
a few dashing lines, in a big, masculine fist, accepting the 
invitation for the middle of September. 

There had been a second letter also from Mr. Peter 
Fisher, demanding an account of his runaway ward; " Mrs. 
Roysten Darrell." And Helen had sent him such an an- 
swer, in the indignation of the moment, as had effectually 
stopped all further communication. She had exposed all his 
villainy — threatened both him and Roysten Darrell with in- 
stant prosecution if they dared molest her niece — informed 



estella's husband. 



97 






him of that niece's decision to live with her, and not to 
return to her father, and ended hy the announcement thar. 
Estella was neither his ward nor Boysten Darrell's wife, 
and that all his plotting and cruelty had failed. Peter 
Fisher was effectually silenced at once and forever. 

Estella's new life now fairly began. Helen constituted 
lierself her teacher, and gave her lessons in music, in French 
and drawing, and from the first the girl made rapid prog- 
ress. Ah, how bright those September days were — 
passed in delightful study, with the most indulgent of 
teachers — or in delightful reading of novels and romances, 
in driving, walking, shopping and visiting! She grew so 
brightly pretty that you would never have known her for 
the same little pale-faced, sallow girl, and sometimes gazing 
in the mirror at her own radiant face, Estella wondered S. 
"The I." 

The crowning glory of her life was very near — her day 
of fate was close at hand. Coming home one evening 
from a long walk, she found Aunt Helen waiting dinner, 
and reading the ''Evening Herald.'' She threw down 
the paper at sight of her niece and took her place at the 
table. 

" Booth plays * Hamlet ' to-night at the Boston, Essie," 
she said. *' Wouldn't you like to go and see him.'* You 
were saying the other day you had never been inside a 
theater in your life. " 

'* I should like it of all things, auntie. But you — you 
never go to such places." 

" Then I will begin for your sake, my dear," Miss Mal- 
lory said, brightly. *' I have played recluse long enough. 
We will engage a box and go to-morrow night. " 

Estella was charmed — theaters, operae, and all that, 
were like the fabled glories of the Arabian Nights to her 
— something to dream of and wonder over. And now she 
was to behold their splendors and enchantments with her 
own eyes. She passed that night and all next day in a 
fever of expectation, and when the hour came to dress, 
took more pains with her toilet than she had ever taken 
before in her life. 

" Will I do. Aunt Helen?" she asked, with sparkling 
eyes. 

Aunt Helen's own eyes lighted up almost as brightly ai 
the girl's as she surveyed her. 



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" Little Conceit! look in the glass! You know quite afl 
well as I do how pretty you are. Ah! why won't Alwyn 
hurry, and be dazzled by my brown-eyed darling?" 

Estella laughed and shook out her summery robes. Yes, 
she was looking pretty — very, very pretty in her blue silk 
dress, her white opera-cloak, and coquettish little white 
kat and blue plume. Very pretty, with all her gold-brown 
ringlets falling in shining shower to her waist — her eyes 
full of golden light, her cheeks like June roses. And the 
little witch knew it, and smiled brightly back at her own 
image. 

** I am glad your little countrified niece won't disgrace 
you. Aunt Helen. And you — but then you always look 
stately and elegant, my handsome auntie., so where is the 
use of telling you you are both now? Ah, what a 
change a few weeks have made in my life! If any one had 
told me three months ago when I was moped to death 
at Fisher's Folly, like Mariana in her * Moated Grange,' 
that to-night I would be going to the Boston Theater to 
see Edwm Booth — robed in silk and lace — I would no 
more have believed it than I could have believed in the 
fabulous tale of Cinderella." 

** Very likely, my dear, and tJiis is but the beginning. 
Wait until you make your debut, and it is the theater, the 
opera, and two or three parties each night, over and over 
again. I foresee that my little girl is going to be the belle 
of the season. " 

They were rattling along in the carriage over the tortu- 
ous streets of Boston, and Estella was gazing delightedly 
out of the window. To her the brilliantly lighted stores, 
the crowded sidewalks, the bustle and life, were a never- 
ceasing delight. 

** It is like a tale of enchantment," she said, dreamily; 
' I can't quite realize it. Somtimes I grow almost afraid 
^such happiness can not last." 

Miss Mallory smiled indulgently. The carriage stopped 
— a moment later, they were being shown to their box by 
the obsequious usher. Of course, the theater was crowded 
— was not Booth playing? — and the orchestra was crashing 
out some grand but deafening overture as they took their 
places. The lights, the music, the vast throng! The little 
country girl caught her breath with one ecstatic gasp, and 
sank into her seat and gazed around her like one in some 



estella's husband. 



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some 



rapturous trance. Helen Mallory looked in her dazzled 
faoe, and laughed outright. 

*' You little, rustic goose! You little, excitable enthu- 
siast! I never saw such an entranced countenance in my 
life! What is it? This bit- building — the gas-blaze — the 
people — Lhe music— what V 

*' Everything! All together! Oh, Aunt Helen, it is 
like fairy-land." 

*' Indeed! But I never was in fairy-lnnd. How de- 
lightrul it must be to be young, and fresh, and able to go 
into raptures only at sight of a theater! Ah! there^s the 
bell; now use your ears as well as your eyes, for Edwin 
Booth is worth listening to.*' 

The play began. Estella leaned forward, rapt breath- 
less, drinking in every word. It was all familiar — had 
she not spent the day reading *' Hamlet?'* — but to see 
it played — that was different. She hardly moved — she hard- 
ly seemed to breathe until the curtain fell upon the first 
act. More than one glass in the crowded house turned 
admiringly upon the pretty, rapturous, youthful face; but 
Estella never saw them. 

Among them was that of a tall, dark gentleman, who 
had lounged in with a party of friends, and who was paying 
more attention to the people about him than to the busi- 
ness of the stage. 

*' Look, Bar tram," said one of his companions — *' look 
at that face in the proscenium box opposite — the girl with 
the white opera-cloak and jockey-hat. If you ever feel 
inclined to paint ' Enthusiasm ' there is your model ready 
to your hand. " 

" A pretty face, too,*' said a second. ** Bartram might 
paint her for the goddess Hebe, so bright and roseate 
she is. It does one good in this age of chalky pallor to 
see such celestial bloom as that. " 

The gentleman addressed leveled his glass, and took a 
long stare at the pretty, rosy face. Then, quite as care- 
lessly, he glanced at Hebe's companion, and dropped his 
lorgnette with a sharp exclamation. 

** By Jove!" he said, " who'd have thought it?" 

" What!" exclaimed the first speaker, *' you don't know 
them, do you? You've luck always, Bartram — the luck 
of a good-looking artist. Who are they? What's the 
earthly name of our golden-eyed divinity?" 



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ESTELLA^ HUSBAND. 



** I don't know your golden-eyed divinity, Lawlor, but 
the* handsome, uplifted-looking lady beside her is Misi 
Helen Mullory, of Chelsea, one of my dearest and oldest 
friends. I must pay my respects at once. Allans, 
messieurs." 

*' And you don't know the ' Girl with 'be golden eyes?' " 
Lawlor said, in a disappointed tone. 

" Never saw her before, but I more than suspect that 
she is the elder lady's niece. Shall I plead your cause, 
Lawlor? tell her it is the tenth case of loTe at first sight 
with you within a week? An revoir until to-morrow. I 
go to bask in the smiles of your goddess. " 

Five minutes later, and the door of the box opened, and 
the tall, dark gentleman sauntered easily in. 

** Can I really believe my eyes?" he said, holding: out 
his hand. *' Is this Miss Helen Mallory, the Recluse of 
Chelsea, or only an optical delusion? Please shake hands, 
and relieve me of doubt." 

Miss Mallory turned sharply around, and barely repressed 
a cry of delight. Her whole face lighted up with pleasure 
at the sight of the dark, handsome, smiling face. 

** You, Alwyn?" she cried. ** Oh, what a surprise this 
is! The last person on earth I should have dreamed of 
seeing here!" 

** Exactly what I have been saying to myself ever since 
I first set eyes on you." 

But I thought you were in New York?" 
Did I not say I was coming about the middle of Sep- 
tember, and is not this the middle of September? I have 
but just arrived, and dropped in here with some fellows to 
have a look at Booth, on my way to Chelsea. Verily, you 
might have knocked me down with a feather when I lifted 
my eyes and beheld you." 

** I came on Essie's account," Helen said, smiling. 
** The stage lost its charms for me long ago. Estella, my 
dear, let me present Mr. Alwyn Bartram, of New York. 
My niece, Alwyn, of whom I made mention in my letter.'* 

** I thought as much," Mr. Bartram said. ** I knew it 
could be no other. And, then, she resembles you. Miss 
Helen. Miss Estella, we must be verv good friends^ since 
we are both the property of * Aunt Helen.' " 

He shook hands gayly. And Estella? She knew from 
the first moment it was he^her kero — her demi-god in 



(t 



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ESTELLA'S HLSHAND. 



101 



the flesh! Was not that duskily handsome face pictured 
already indelibly on her sentimental little heart? 

Artist, author, poet, he stood before her, beautiful with 
" man's best beauty " — a being for other men to envy, and 
women to adore. And they expected her to lift her daring 
eyes to this modern Byron, to dare to talk to this author 
of " Lady Claribel," this writer of entrancing poems? 

The foolish heart of the dreamer of sixteen actually 
seemed to stand still with unutterable admiration and awe. 

Mr. Alwyn Bartram, all unconscious of the havoc he was 
making in that wildly beating breast, leaned lightly over 
the back of her chair, and talked away animatedly to Miss 
Mai lory. If he had not been an author and a demi-god, 
and handsome as an angel, Estella might have thought his 
rapid flow of remarks commonplace and trite enough, but 
being both, every word took a depth in her eyes not intrin- 
sically its own, and were as the pearls and diamonds drop- 
ping from the lips of the girl in the fairy tale. And then, 
the voice that went on so fluently was the deepest, the 
richest, the most melodious of masculine tones, and the 
slender hands that lay on the crimson velvet back of Es- 
tella 's chair were the white, shapely artist's hands the girl 
admired so much. Altogether he was perfect — better 
than the hero of any novel she had read. 

*' And Aunt Helen expects him to admire me — a little, 
awkward, silent, plain country girl like me !'* she thought, 
with a sudden sense of despair. *' He is too bright and 
beautiful and talented for a Princess Royal!" 

As the thought crossed her mind, he suddenly bent over 
her with an electric smile that was like a flash of light 
Aunt Helen had been speaking of her^ and he had been 
listening with an amused face. 

** I am so glad you like my dreary scribble. Miss Essie," 
he said. *' I may call you Essie, may I not, since Aunt 
Helen gives me permission? I wish those horrible critics 
could have done the same, but they tore my two unfort- 
unate little books to atoms. They'deserved it, I dare say, 
but it was none the less excruciating at the time.'' 

*' And you authors are such a thin-skinned race," Aunt 
Helen said. " Still, I suppose you have got over it before 
this." 

Mr. Bartram laughed. 
I hope so; nevertheless I shall be in no haste to launch 



'III. 
ill" 

r 

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Is 
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if 



(( 



102 



estella's husband. 



**That is 
books, donH 



a third literary craft upon these troubled waters. I haT« 

given myself up to art, and left the sister profession so, " 

** And your uncle's business, Alwyn — what of that?*' 

*' Stock-broking? Oh! I have given that the go-by alto- 
gether, and so ouended the old man mortally. 1 haven't 
seen him in six months, but as ho duly remits my allow- 
ance, I manage to drag on existence without the light of his 
countenance. 
k ** And your pictures sell, I suppose?" 

Alwyn Bartram made a wry face, then laughed once 
more. 

the worst of it! No, my pictures, like my 
sell. Either the world has lost all taste, or 
else I — Bat the other supposition is too horrible to be 
thought of. I shall awake some day, no doubt, and find 
myself famous. Meantime, with full coffers, life in New 
York goes agreeably enough. " 

*' There is no danger, I trust — I am silly to think of it 
Your uncle has no one else to leave his fortune to, of 
course. " 

** But he has, by Jove! and a very blue lookout it will 
be for me if he does it. He thinks his other nephew, Rob- 
ert Bartram — * Robert the Devil,' as he used to oe called — 
is still alive somewhere. I was his prime favorite until I re- 
fused to go into the office; now his thoughts turn to scape- 
grace Robert. But I shall hope on until the end comes, 
and trust to my old luck." 

He laughed again — the cares of life evidently sat lightly 
on Mr. Alwyn Bartram's handsome shoulders. He talked 
away animatedly to Miss Mallory and her niece until the 
play ended, and they drove home together, for he was to 
be their guest while in Boston. 

But Estella talked very little in return — monosyllables 
were all she could find in reply to this hero of her dreams. 

SShe stood looking at herself again tha^. night before re- 
tiring, in the silence and solitude of her own room. The 
rose bloom was as bright, the golden lusterdn the hazel 
eyes as brilliant as ever, but in hor heart there was noth- 
ing but despair. 

** I can not talk to him — I hardly dare lift my eyes to 
his face; I am not even pretty, with those milk-maid 
cheeks and red-brown hair. And he— oh^ how handsomOi 



I> 



estella's husband. 



103 



how beautiful he is! And I love him already with all my 
heart!'' 



once 



yes to 
-maid 
some, 



CHAPTER XII. 

MR. ALWYN IJARTRAM. 

Kr. Alwtn Bartram lingered two weeks in that pleas- 
ant old house in **dull Chelsea'* — two brighly bfissfui 
weeks — and turned it into Paradise. To Estella Mallory, 
the little girl in love for the first time in her life, those two 
celestial weeks stood out ever after from the story of her 
life as a time passed in Eden. Kever shone the sun so 
bright, never sped golden summer days so swiftly; never 
was there so glorified a being in all the wide earth as this 
dark-eyed artist and poet, and never was there half so 
blessed and happy a girl as little, foolish Estella. Come 
what might, she had been blessed; no after misery — and 
the misery was very . ear — could alter that. 

Mr. Bartram was one of those happily constituted people 
who are immediately at home wherever they go; whose 
smiles shed sunshine around them, who are destined to be 
spoiled, and petted, and caressed by the whole world. Men 
liked him, women fell in love with him, matrons indulged 
him, and young girls went wild for love of his handsome 
face. 

He did everything, or a little of everything that soci- 
ety liked. He playeJd the piano brilliantly, he sung in the 
richest of superb tenors, he waltzed to perfection, he 
painted lovely little pictures, and scribbled more lovely 
little poems. 

And if he made love to every young lady he met, who 
can blame him, since those young ladies made love in their 
own pretty roundabout way to him first, showering smiles 
upon him and turning their backs contemptuously upon 
less favored mortals? 

He was the '* darling of the gods," with the purse of 
Fortunatus in prospective when that stock-broking uncle 
should see fit to die; a genius in the present, blessed with 
a light heart, an elastic conscience, a sound digestion, and 
the beauty of an Apollo Belvidere. Lucky Alwyn Bartram ! 

And Estella adored him. That is the word for it. And 
the pretty, youthful face grew celestial in its bright bliis 
and blushing happiness. 



m 
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104 



ebtella's husband. 



I ! 



Hurely Alwyn Bartrani would have been stone blind oonld 
he huvu misutulei'Btood those radiant eves that told their 
innocent story 80 plsiinly; thosu rosuatu blushuB that came 
and went so Ijeautifiilly at his bidding. 

I^iit ho w;3 very well urfud to that sort of thing, and took 
it qui to as n mutter of course, lie admired Jlelun Mal- 
lory s bright-faced niece very much, after a lazy artist sort 
of fashion, and looked at the glowing blushes with a cool, 
professional eye. 

'* The very model 1 want for my Uniline," he said, crit- 
ically; " the face I have been searching for everywhere and 
failed to find — youthful, innocent, trusting and sweet. I 
shall sketch that exquisite face and head of yours. Miss 
Essie, and immortalize you in oils when 1 get back to New 
York. 1 am going to be very industrious next winter — 
ignore the opera, give all my Bohemian friends the cut di- 
rect, turn my back upon the best metropolitan society, and 
take the world of art by storm. My Undine ' shall make 
my fortune.' '* 

And forthwith Mr. Bartram fell to work, and enthusias- 
tically dashed ofi a sketch of blushing Essie on the spot 

" It's a thousand pities 1 can't carry you off with me, 
Essie," he said. " Such a model might inspire the veriest 
dauber that ever spoiled canvas. Ah! how I should work 
with you in my studio — my Undine's sunshiny face light- 
ing its dingy walls! What a picture I should paint! howl 
should astonish those old academicians, who sneer so mer- 
cilessly at my piteous failures now! I wish I had a nice 
old mother to play propriety, and make you her guest. 1 
would carry off my Undine, Miss Helen Mallory, will- 
ingly." 

Helen Mallory smiled, very well pleased; this was just 
what she wanted. Mr. Bartram might carry off her pretty 
niece any day he liked, even without the ** nice old mother " 
to play propriety in New York, and light up his studio 
with her loveliness, and paint ** Undines '' for the remain- 
der of his mortal career. A plain gold ring and a bridal 
wreath would make that all right. 

" You will turn Essie's head with flattery, Alwyn," she 
said, aloud. *^ So she makes a nice Undine, does she? 
Who is to be your traitor knight — yourself?" 

'' If 1 can find no bet-ter modeL But 1 should never be 



)/ 



EST Ella's hushand. 



105 



"she 
she? 



ft '3 to 8uoh an Undino," he suid, gayly. '* Were I 
Uilili brand, I would never seek a fairer bride. '* 

*' It is ooiiiiijg,** tliouj^ht Heltm, j^Iaiicinj; aoross at Eb* 
tolhi's liappy, «5lowiiij( face; *' the dream of my life will be 
realizi (I at last. 1 will live to see my darling Alwyn Har- 
tram's wife. And she loves him— my little dove-eyed dar- 
jing — her inTiocunt face shows it every iioiir of tlie day. 1 
ought to tell him iier story, J suppose, and yet why need 
1? lie knows as mueh of her mother's liistory as I did 
before thu Count Montreuil turned up. What neces;iity is 
there for his knowing more? Essie and her father will 
never meet. And as for her history — that painful episode 
of Fishur's Folly — the poor child shrinks so sensitively 
from all allusion to it, that I hate to betray her; and yet, 
if he marries her he ought to know. However, when he 
speaks it will be time enough to decide all thaL" 

So Miss Mallory put o£f the evil time, and let events take 
their course. 

But the glowing days of that sunny September wore on, 
one after another, and still the handsome artist did not 
'* speak.'' 

He was as delighted as ever, as irresistibly fascinating. 
He walked with Essie, drove with her, sung for her, gave 
her lessons in drawing, took her to every place of amuse- 
ment open in the city, sketched her pretty face in a hun- 
dred different ways, paid her lazy, artist-like compliments; 
but he never ** spoke." 

If Helen Mallory had not been thoroughly out of prac- 
tice in everything pertaining to the grand passion, she 
must have seen at once that his open, outspoken admiration 
foreboded the very worst of her pet scheme. 

Mr. Alwyn Bar tram, smoking his endless cheroots, and 
sketching Essie's charming face, would have opened his 
lazy, dark eyes in wide wonder, could he only have known 
what was passing in Miss Mallory's mind. Even Norah 
saw that to which he was stone blind. 

"Drat the man!" exclaimed Helen Mallory's faithful 
tire- woman. ** Where's his eyes? Can't he see that poor 
little girl is dead in love with his handsome face, and that 
Mifis Helen is set on the match with all her heart? There 
he goes dawdling and meandering about, smoking contin- 
ual, and painting of his good-for-nothing little pictures, 
and as blind as a bet to it all And by and by he wiU 



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106 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



take himself off, and leave the house as desolate as a dnn- 
geoQ; and poor Miss Essie to pine her heart out, for all he 
car OS. They're all alike, these men! Thank the Lord I 
never had anything to do with them!" 

The possibility that Mr. Alwyn Bartram might be as 
" dead in love " with somebody else as Estclla was with 
him never seemed to enter into the range of their thoughts. 

But the fatal truth came home to the girl herself, as she 
sat by her idol's side one misty September twilight, the 
drawing-room all to themselves. 

It was a hazy, overcast afternoon, with a threatening 
of rain in the lowering sky, and a bleak, easterly wind 
whistling shrilly up the deserted street. That easterly 
wind had driven Helen to bed with nervous headache, and 
kept Mr. Bartram and Esteila confined to the hoase. 

He had been reading aloud to her her pet poem, " Lock- 
sley Hall,'' charming her for the thousandth time with 
those deep, melodious tones. Now the book was thrown 
aside, and in the tender twilight dreamy silence fell be- 
tween them. 

** When shall I read Tennyson to you again, Essie, I 
wonder?" Mr. Bartram said, dreamily. " You will for- 
get all about me, 1 suppose, when I am gone. And 1 go 
on Monday, " 

" On Monday!" Esteila said, with a sort of gasp; " and 
this is {Saturday evening!" 

And then her voice suddenly failed her, and she looked 
at him with wild, wide eyes. 

Alwyn Bartram saw that look, and his heart smote him. 
Her cherished secret, so closely hidden as she thought, 
was very large print — poor child — and easily read. 

And he had not meant to make love to her, either — this 
innocent little girl — and yet in a thousand indirect ways 
he had done it from the first. Ke saw that sudden whiten- 
ing of the fair face, that wild dilation of the wonderful 
brown eyes, and the sharpest pang of remorse he had ever 
felt pierced his careless heart. 

** What a wretch I am!" he thought; " what a frivol- 
ous, heartless wretch! And this child is as innocent of the 
meaning of the verb * to flirt ' as the babe in its cradle. I 
have made her think 1 care for her until she has grown to 
care for me; I have treated her as I would have treated 
any hardened coquet in Vanity Fair, and now- 



» 



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estella's husbakix 



107 



He woald not finish his mental sentence; he turned 
Away from the sight of thiit pale, startled young face, 
from the clear gaze of those guiltless eyes. 

** I must go, Essie/' he said, more gravely than w&9 his 
wont. ** My uncle is very ill — my uncle in Hichmond, 
Virginia — my sole living relative, the rich stock-brdker, 
you know. I had a letter to-day from his lawyer, telling 
me if I would see him alive I must hasten South at onc«. 
There never was much love between us, heaven knowi% 
but blood is thicker than water, and then " — with one of 
his old, somewhat heartless laughs — *' he is a rich man, 
and I am his prospective heir. If I lose my inheritance, 
I will be an object of compassion indeed. So you per- 
ceive I must go." 

*' Yes," Estella said, slowly; ** you must go. But you 
will come back?" 

** Oh, some time — surely!" the young man said, gayly 
crossing over to the piano; " but Fm afraid not very soon. 
I have stayed longer than I intended — longer than 1 should 
have stayed, in fact — longer, I suppose, than I will ever 
stay again. New York is my home, Essie — I have a 
thousand ties to bind me there — and so, no matter how 
my uncle Wylder leaves his fortune, it will be a long 
time, I fear, before I can return to dear old Chelsea. But 
you must not quite forget me, you know; and when 1 get 
married — which folly 1 expect to commit before very long 
— you must come to Gotham, and make me and my wife a 
long visit. You will, won't you. Cousin Essie?" 

Without waiting for a reply, Mr. Alwyn Bartram rattled 
over the keys in a brilliant prelude, and he began to sing 
Gumpert's little cynical song, in his most delightful voice: 

** ' Smile again, my dea,rest love, 

Weep not that I leave you; 
I have chosen not to rove — 

Bear it though it grieve you. 
See the sun, and moon, and stars 

Gleam the wide world over. 
Whether near or whether far. 

On your loving roverl 



'its' 



Hh 









I 111 



« 



' And the sea has ebb and flow — 
Wind and cloud deceive us; 

Summer heat and winter's snow 
Seek us but to leave us. 



iff?' 

I llil 






mii' ',' 



■»"!• 



108 estella's husband. 

Thus the world grows old and mew— 

Why should you be stronger? 
Long have I been true to you— 

Now I'm true no longerl 

** * As no longer yearns my heart, 

Or your smiles ensl»ve me; 
Let me thank you ere we part 

For the love you gave me. 
See the May flowers wet with dew 

Ere their doom is over. 
Should I not return to you. 

Find another lover!' " 

And Esiella! She sat still as stone, her hands crossed 
apon her lap, her eyes fixed on the darkening street And 
this was the end of all! 

** Horrible little song, isn't it?" Mr. Bartram said, ris- 
ing from the piano. *' You haven't answered me yet, 
Essie. You will make me that visit, will you riot?" 

** When you are married?" — how strangely her Toice 
sounded, faint and far-off even to herself! *' When are 
you " — it died entirely away. 

'* Very soon — I think — I hope. Look, Essie, 1 never 
showed you this before." 

He drew from beneath his vest some' f here a locket, 
richly inlaid with sparkling stones, and touching the spring 
it flew open. He handed it to her — not looking at the 
white, drawn face. 

** See, Essie — my darling, and my bride that is to be!" 

There was a little tremor in his steady voice — the tremor 
of a deep, passionate love. Estella took it There was 
still light enough left in the darkening sky for her to see 
the pictured face. 

Such an exquisite face J A face of perfect beauty— the 
fact of a girl not much older than herself, perfec<.ly paint- 
ed. A darkly beautiful face — not of doubtful^ untormed 
prettiness, like her own, but one concerning whose exqui- 
site loveliness there could be no two opinions. You might 
not choose to like, but you could not fail to admire. Won- 
derful eyes — large, black, luminous— looked up at you; 
wonderful waves of rich black hair rippled over the snowy 
shoulders; and the low brow, a mouth like a rosebud, a 
nose that was simply perfect, tinted oval cheeks — that waa 
what Estella saw. Beneath was the name '* Leonie,'* 



1 ,1.1 



estella's husband. 



109 



She looked a moment. In that moment the beautiful dark 
face was pictured on her mind, never to be forgotten. 
Then she closed the locket, and handed it back 

" It is beautiful! I wish you every happiness, Mr. Bar- 
tram, and — your bride." 

Again her voice failed. She was so young, so utterly 
unschooled, and Aunt Helen had talked such terribly fool- 
ish things. The door opened, and Norah came in to light 
the gas. 

** Miss Helen is down. She is waiting for you both in 
the dining-room," Norah said, briskly. " Her headache 
is better, and you had best not keep her waiting dinner. " 

** My head aches," said Estella, passing swiftly by her. 
** Ask her to excuse me. 1 don't want any dinner. 

She was gone like a flash. Norah lighted the gas, and 
stared blankly after her. 

^* That child has caught cold. She is as hoarse as a 
raven. You haven't been keeping her in a draught, I 
hope, Mr. Alwyn Bar tram?" 

*' No," Alwyn Bartram replied, a second sharp pang 
shooting through the heart that beat beneath the jeweled 
locket, as he turned away from the woman's sharp eyes 
and left the room. 

And up in her own chamber, while the rainy night shui 
darkly down, Estella Mallory fell on her knees by the 
bedside, her face lying on her hands, as if she never cai*ed 
to lift it again, the world locked out, doing battir with 
her shame and despair. 



CHAPTER Xm. 

LEONIE. 

A CHARMINO picture! a radiant vision! There was a 
shimmer of gold-colored silk, a gleaming of opals, a misty 
cloud of rare old lace, a slender, willowy figure, robed like 
a princess in a fairy-tale, a dark face of exquisite loveli- 
ness, a fall of rich black hair crowned with a circlet oU red 
gold — and that was Miss Leonie De Montreuil. 

A low hum of suppressed admiration ran though the 
crowded rooms as she appeared, floating in her golden 
robes and flashing opals, a perfect picture of youth and 
boauty. 



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110 



estella's husbanb. 



A little group of gentlemen, hovering aloof, stopped 
their flow of society small-talk to stare with all their might. 

*' The little Parisian is in full feather to-night,*' one said; 
** radiant as one of the black-eyed houris of the Mussul' 
man's paradise. By Jove! old Rutherford has taste!*' 

** No more a Parisian than you are," said a second, ** in 
spite of her Frenchified name. She was born and bred 
here in New York, and never saw Prance until within the 
last three years. Then this rich uncle, or cousin or some- 
thing turns unexpectedly up, wants an heir or an heiress, 
sends for the little Leonie, places her in a Parisian convent 
to be polished up, and finally brings her back here, and 
leaves her. Political business brought over the elegant 
Count De Montreuil, and took him back in a hurry. I 
fancy he is not over and above devoted to his fascinating 
little ward, since he was so willing to leave her behind. " 

" She wished to stay,*' said another; ** whether for the 
sake of old Rutherford's countless rupees, or Alwyn Bar- 
tram's handsome face, it would be hard to say. Fools, 
both of them! The little belle has no more heart than a 
grindstone. " 

'* She likes Bartram," remarked the first speaker, de- 
cidedly; *' and, if that mythical uncle in Virgmia makes 
him his heir, she will marry him. Where is Bartram? 
He should be here to see her to-night. " 

*' He has been out of town for the past few weeks, on a 
visit to some friends in the wilds of Massachusetts. He re- 
turned to-day. I met him this afternoon in Broadway, and 
he told me he was en route for Richmond. The stock- 
broking uncle is sick — in articulo mortis — and Alwyn goes 
to take possession of his fortune." 

*' If he gets it," said another, with a shrug. ** * There 
is many a slip,' and in this case there happens to be a sec- 
ond heir. But his case with the little De Montreuil lies in 
a nutshell. If he gets the inheritance, he gets hex ; if he 
doesn't, he doesn't. I shouldn't mind backing old Ruth- 
erford, ten to one, if you want to make a book, Roosevelt " 

Meantime, the object of all this^ cold-blooded discussion 
sailed along to pay her respects to the hostess of the even- 
ing, serenely unconscious. She saw the admiring looks, 
she heard the admiring whispers, but she was so used to 
admiration that she took it quite as a matter of course. 

Her perfect beauty and her exquisite dress made her al' 



estella's husband. 



Ill 



it 



3r al- 



ways a sort of surprise — made her bloom and brightness 
ever newr. 

" I had almost given you up, Miss De Montreuil/' her 
hostess said; '' and Ethel has been fidgeting her life out 
far the past half hour lest you should fail to come. You 
will find her in the boudoir, waiting as impatiently as a 
stricken lover." 

Miss De Montreuil smiled faintly. She was a very 
languid little beauty, as radically and unaffectedly non- 
chalant as a duchess; but the faint smile was wondrously 
beautiful, and lighted up the whole dark, exquisite face. 

** Mrs. Manners and I are on our way to Clara Leesom's 
birthnight ball," said she, in the softest and most silvery 
of feminine voices. '* We are very late, but 1 would not 
on any account have missed looking in upon you. How is 
Ethel to-day? I have been so busy, really, I have had no 
time to call or send. " 

*' She is much better — strong enough to receive her moat 
intimate friends in the boudoir, but not strong enough to 
appear in the rooms for general society. They told her, 
Leonie," with a little laugh " that you are on the eve of 
matrimony, and, as somebody is a particular favorite of hers, 
she is all anxiety since. " 

The fairy belle shrugged her pretty, plump shoulders in 
very French fashion indeed. 

*' 1 am on the eve of marrying Mr. Rutherford, I sup- 
pose, and somebody means Alwyn Bar tram. The world 
takes a great deal of pains to settle my destiny. 1 must go 
and ease her anxious mind.*' 

She moved away — a walking poem, floating in her shim- 
mering robes. She passed down the long room, nodding 
and smiling right and left — a dazzling little beauty as ever 
turned the heads of men. 

A curtain of sea-green silk hung over the pillared arch- 
way at the further extremity. She lifted this lightly, and 
passed at once into an inner room. 

A little bijou of a room, all cool white and pale green, 
lighted by dim clusters of gas, in crystal cups, with frail 
exotics perfuming the air, and dim white statues gleaming 
against dusky green backgrounds. 

It was like a sea nymph's grot — an ocean cave — and the 
pale girl, with the floatmg yellow hair, who lay on a sofa 



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1 ■ 

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4 

■:i ! -I 






113 



estella's husband. 



" iii 



in a cload of green areophane, lighted dimly with milky 
pearls, looked not unlike some deep-sea siren. 

She was quite alone in her cool little nest, and started 
eagerly up at sight of her golden-rohed visitor. 

°* At last!" ehe cried; " and I had given you up! At 
last, Leonie; and how late you are!" 

** 1 could not help it, dear,'* Mias De Montreuil said, 
sweetly, taking her place beside her. " We went to hear 
the now tenor in ' Lucrezia Borgia,' and stayed until the 
end of the opera. Ah, he is charming, and handsome as 
an angel on the stage; although I suppose, like the rest 
of these people, he owes half his beauty to wigs and paint 
We are on our way now to Clara Leesom's; but, of course, 
disgracefully late as we will be, 1 insisted upon looking in 
lor a moment to see you. And how are you to-night, 
dear?'' 

** Better, but a little tired now. My illness has left me 
weak as an infant. Leonie, I am dying to ask you if it is 
true about you and Mr. Rutherford?" 

** Your mother told me you were," Leonie said, adjust- 
ing her bracelet. " If what is true, Ethel?" 

** Oh, you know well enough! It is the talk of the 
avenue. They say you are going to marry him." 

'* Do they? 1 dare say they do. Well, and suppose I 

*' Oh, Leonie! And Alwyn Bartram?" 

" My love, I have not seen Mr. Bartram for three weeks. 
What would you have? One can't be faithful forever to 
the absent. He shouldn't stay away so long if he wants to 
keep his memory green. And then, Mr. Rutherford — ah, 
words fail, my dear, to tell how devoted that poor old man 
is!" 

She laughed — the sweetest of little tinkling laughs, but 
hollow as ^ silver bell. 

Her companion looked at her almost indignantly. 

'* And you are engaged to Alwyn, and you talk like thisJ 
Are you heartless, Leonie, as they say you are?" 

Leonie shrugged her dimpled shoulders again. 

** Do they say so? I dare say they are right. I dare say 
I am. As to being engaged to Alwyn Bartram, 1 am not 
so sure of that. We have been frightfully serious together 
— have exchanged pictures and rings, and all that — have 
talked more nonsense, and vowed more vows, than 1 care 



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to remember. But still — there is always a but, you see, 
Ethel — one isn't Mrs. Bartram yet; and — ah, well I the 
Butherford diamonds are superb, and he doesn^t know the 
depths of his own coffers. The temptation is strong, and 
poor little Leonie is pitifully weak." 

** That means, then, you intend to throw Mr. Bartram 
over for the wrinkled old millionaire and his family dia- 
monds?" 

" How painfully matter-of-fact you are, my dearest 
Ethel! Still, it is best in these cases. Yes, my dear, in 

6.ain English, 1 am very strongly tempted to throw Mr. 
artram over for Mr. Rutherford. The one is young and 
handsome as a god — the other is old and ugly as a satyr; 
but, oh, my Ethel! he counts his dollars by millions, and 
dollars are the glory and bliss of life! What a shocked 
and horrified face you wear! It sounds very mercenary 
and very horrible, I dare say, but one may as well tell the 
truth. You see, Ethel, I nave known what it is to be 
poor, and you have not, and that makes all the difference 
m the world. 1 have worn print dresses, and shabby bon- 
nets, and old shoes, and lived in stuffy little back rooms, 
and dined on weak tea and smoked herrings before my 
uncle De Montreuii sent for me to France, and the horror 
of that horrible time has never been forgotten. 1 will 
never be poor again, Ethel — never, never, never!" 

" You need not be, and still remain true to the man you 
love. For you do love Alwyn, do you not, Leonie?" 

Leonie JDe Montreuii put out one little, dark hand, all 
a-glitter with diamonds and opals, and laid it in that of 
her friend. 

** They say I am heartless, Ethel, and I know I am not 
like you, and not in the least like those superhuman girls 
one reads of in novels, who give up the world for love; but 
I do— I (/o like poor Alwyn! If he inherits his uncle's fort- 
une, I will marry him gladly, although then he will not be 
half so rich as Mr. Rutherford. If he does not, 1 never 
will! No, Ethel, I never will! I can not be a poor man's 
wife." 

** No need to be poor. He has his art. He can win his 
way to fame and fortune." 

" Ah, bah! when both our heads are gray? No, no, 
Ethel, that will never do! If he inherits a fortune I will 
be his wife; if he does not, then I marry Mr. Rutherford. 



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That is vrhy I have remained in New York. I am ready 
for either fate. I must make my own future. My uncle 
De M'^ntreuil cares very little for me — cares less than ever 
since he has found out he has a daughter alive.'' 

" A daughter! Is it possible?*' 

" Komautic, isn't it? out quite true, and here in Amer- 
ica somewhere. When quite a young man, and foolish, as 
young men are apt to be, he fell in love after the most ap- 
proved fashion, married, and ran away with a pretty, pen- 
niless Yankee bride. He was Monsieur Raoul, a teacher 
of music at that time, with very little hope that the fam- 
ily inheritance would ever be restored to him. But it was, 
and with the rise of Louis Napoleon, he arose, too. He 
left his wife, and went back to France, and once there — 
who knows how it was? — he never returned to her. But, 
when he came here with me this summer he sought out 
her friends, found she was dead, but had left a daughter. 
That daughter the indignant friends refused to restore him 
— not in the least dazzled by his wealth and his title. And, 
as he could not remain to enforce his rights, he has re- 
turned to France without her. He told me the whole story 
— less the names of the parties; and ever since 1 have felt 
my position as his future heiress most doubtful. He will 
return and find his daughter, 1 know; and where, then, is 
poor Leonie? No, Ethel, I should like to please you, to 
please Alwyn, to please myself; but 1 can not marry a 
struggling artist! His fate hangs on his uncle's will, and 
that is speedily to be decided now. He is back in the city 
— Alwyn. 1 had a note from him to-day, and expect to 
meet him at the ball. The uncle is very ill. He goes 
South to-morrow. As soon as the will is read, I shall 
know, and then — " 

She paused, rose up, shook out her flashing skirts, and 
laughed lightly. 

** I am a cold-blooded wretch, am I not, my dear, en- 
thusiastic Ethel? 1 don't deny it. Mr. Bartram, after the 
fashion of loves and artists adores me as an angel of light 
now. If 1 fail him, 1 will sink to the lowest depths of in- 
famy in his estimation. And yet, I am neither so good 
nor so bad as he makes me out. 1 am simply true to the 
teachings of my life — to the doctrine of society. All the 
nicest girls marry for money nowadays. They leave home 
on the same principle as their house-maids leave theirs — lo 



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ebtella's husband. 



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better themselves. Oh, what long speeches 1 have been 
making, and what a stupid talk we nave had! But 1 want 
you to know me as I am, Ethel, and for the rest of the 
world I don't care a fillip! We won't talk of this any more. 
We will hope for the best. I may marry Alwyn, after all. 
And now, adieu, and mi revoir! My chaperone will think 
I am lost." 

She stooped and kissed her friend, and floated, like the 
fairy she was, in a golden mist away through the sea-green 
curtains and out into the glare and flash of the gas-lighted 
drawing-room, that was the only heaven she knew of or 
cared for. Bet tiful, ele^rant, heartless — a creature to drive 
mankind mad for love, and never know the meaning of that 
sweetest word of all words herself. 

Half an hour later, among the many beauties shining re- 
splendent at Miss Leesom's birth night ball, floated in the 
beauty of the season, eclipsing everything around her, as a 
meteor eclipses common stars. 

She floated up, in her sylph-like way, tc the daughter of 
the house, and murmured sweetly her few words of congrat- 
ulation appropriate to the occasion. 

" We are terribly late, 1 know," she said, plaintively, 
** but we went to hear the new Italian tenor, and then 
looked in at poor, dear Ethel's. She is much better, and, 
of course, 1 lingered for a chat. 

Every one is here ages ago, no doubt?" 

"Every one!" the young lady responded, laughing. 
*' Mr. Rutherford and Mr. AlwynBartram included. Mr. 
Rutherford is absorbed in whist in the card-room and Mr. 
Bartram is — " 

" Here!" said a voice at her elbow. 

He stepped forward as he spoke, with a glow on his 
handsome face, as ho held out his hand to Leonie. 

** It seems centuries since we met. How late you are, 
Leonie! I began to think you were not coming after all." 

Miss Leesora, with a conscious smile, had glided away at 
once. Alwyn Bartram drew the gloved hand oi the little 
belle through his arm with the air of one having the right. 

** You received my note? You expected to meet me 
here?" he said, bending above her. 

** Certainly," responded Miss De Montreuil. She was 
infinitely calm. No flush had arisen to her clear olive 



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cheek — no added sparkle to her eye at sight of her lorer. 
** How long you have been away, Alwynr' 

** Has it seemed long to you, Leonie? Have you really 
missed mer'*' 

*' Of course," with one of her Parisian shrugs. ** Are 
you not the best waltzer on my list? Apropos, I keep the 
first for you to-night. Ani you positively go South to- 
morrowi"' 

** Without fail. My un 'le lies dangerously ill. I should 
have been on my way now. 1 may not see him alive as it 
is. But 1 could not go — 1 could ?iot. Leonie, without com- 
ing hero to see you. " 

Miss De Moiitrouil pressed her pretty littb patrician nose 
into her bouquet — a bouquet of rarest exotics sent her that 
afternoon by Mr. Rutherford, the millionaire. 

** Very flattering, but very foolish. You risk your in- 
heritance, do you not? But, perhaps, you have discovered 
that it is already secured to you?" 

*' Unfortunately, no. The issue is still doubtful. I 
have ofTended my uncle by rejecting his business, and he 
still labors under the impression that his favorite nephew, 
Robert Bartram, is alive. It is nine jears now since Rob- 
ert broke wild and fled from home and friends, but some- 
where in the scheme of the universe hQmay still (3xist. My 
chance of inheriting my uncle's fortune would be wretch- 
edly slight, indeed, if he ever turned up." 

** Very unfortunate for you," Miss De Montrerli said, 
coolly; " beyond that inheritance you have nothing but 
your art?" 

" ^Nothing, Leonie; but that art shall yet win me wealth 
and fame. And you — oh, my darling! you will be equal 
to either fortune, will you not? You will not fail me?" 

He looked down upon her for the first time with a pang 
of dread and doubt. He had drawn her away from the 
crowded ball-room into a dimly lighted conservatory, where 
a wilderness of camellias and magnolias hid them, and the 
air was heavy with the perfume of rose and jessamine. It 
was quite deserted — only the pallid P'loras and Cupids 
among the rose and acacia-trees gleamed about them like 
marble ghosts. 

Miss Le Montreuil leaned lightly against a tall statne of 
Hebe, holding forth her cup of ambrosia, with a smile on 
her stone face. In the dim light she made a rarely lovely 



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E8TELLA*8 HUSBAND. 



117 



picture, her shimmering rohe flashing like spun gold, her 
opals glimmering, her graceful little head drooping for- 
ward, her dark, velvety eyes fixed on the frail blossoms she 
held. A rarely lovely picture — one any mun who loved her 
might never forget — one that haunted Alwyn Bartram for 
weary years to come with a pang more bitter than death. 
He loved her passionately — intensely. You could see it in 
his glowing face, in his burning uyes, in the flush that 
mantled hotly his dark face. He towered above her — fairy 
sylph that she was — tall, strong, black-browed, a fitting 
mate for her; beautiful, in his man's beauty, as herself. 

** You love me, Leonie, do you not? Oh, my darling, 
say it again! Nothing will ever make you false to the vows 
you haro plighted? No loss of fortune will ever make you 
false to me? My Leonie! my own! tell me once more that 
you love me!" 

** Hove you!" she answered faintly, not lifting her eyes. 

** And you will wait for me? I may not lose this fort- 
une, but if I do you will wait? The waiting shall not be 
long. I feel that within me that tells me I am destined to 
achieve success. And if this fortune comes to me at once, 
then, Leonie, you will be my own without delay. You will 
bless me for life with this dear hand?" 

He caught it fast, covering it with rapturous kisses. 

** Yes, Leonie De Montreuil said, '* if this fortune be- 
comes yours, Alwyn, I will be your wife. Oh, surely — 
surely your uncle will make you his heir!" 

** 1 hope so — 1 trust so. But still, if not — still, if it be- 
comes Robert Bartram's — still you will be faithful and true 
— still, my dearest, you will wait?" 

" For how long?" 

" A year, perhaps — two at most. In two years 1 will 
have a name to offer my peerless Leonie, of which she will 
be proud, or I will burn my easel, and never touch paint- 
brush more. Two years is not long to eighteen and seven- 
and-twenty. My own dear girl will be true to her lover?" 

She looked up suddenly, boldly, her great, black eyes 
flashing with a look that was almost defiance into his im- 
passioned face. 

*' Alwyn," she said, ** 1 will never marry a poor man. 
1 do love you — Heaven knows 1 do — and I hope to be your 
wife! But 1 am not what you think me — what your en- 
thusiastic fancy has made me. I also love wealth and lux- 



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estella's husband. 



urj, fine hoases, fine dresses, rioh jewels — all the glory, 
and brightness, and luxury of life I I should go luid, or 
die, as a poor man's wife. Look at these hands — were 
they made for labor? Look at me— am I of the clay they 
make household drudges? Inherit your uncle's fortune, 
Alwyn, and 1 will marry you and love you all my life. 
Fail, and—" 

Her voice died away; her eyes fell; the color that had 
flushed for an instant mto her rounded chooke died out in 
ashen pallor. 

She dared not meet the earnest face above her. He 
stood gazing down upon her, the truth slowly coming home 
to him for the first time that the woman he loved was 
cold-blooded, selfish and mercenary to the core of her heart. 

" And if 1 fail," he said, slowly—" if 1 fail? In the 
hour I lose my fortune, do 1 also lose my bride?" 

** Don't let us talk of it!" Leonie broke in, hurriedly. 
** Don't let us think of it! We will hope for the best. 
You will inherit this dying man's wealth, and Leonie will 
be all your own. Take me back to the ball-room, Alwyn; 
I shall be missed." 

She took his arm, to draw him away, looking up with 
the piteous, im^ loring face of a naughty child. 

** Don't wear that rigid scowl, please. Don't be angry! 
If you go to-morrow, let us part friends. You will write 
to me at once, will you not? You know how impatient 1 
shall be to hear how events turn out. There is our waltz. 
Come, Alwyn — come!" 

** I shall waltz none to-night," he said, moodily. ** I 
only came here to see you, and it is time I was gone." 

''Then let us say good-bye where we are, and part," 
Miss De Montreuil responded, readily, holding out her 
hand. ** Bon voyage and all success! I shall count the 
hours until I hear from you." 

He caught her suddenly in his arms — a fierce, passion- 
ate, straining clasp. 

** Leonie, Leonie! be true to me!" he cried. "" I love 
you more than my life! If I lost you — great heavens, 1 
should go mad I You will not be poor — 1 swear it! I will 
work for you like a galley-slave! I will toil my fingers to 
the bone! Oh, my love, my bride, be true!" 

" I will be true — if I can," she added, mentally. ** For 
pity's sake, Alwyn, let me go. Some one comes !^ 



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She let him kies her; then she flitted out of his arms like 
a spirit, and was gone. Ba(;k to the ball-room — back to 
the crashing music — to the lights, the splendor, the admir- 
ation — all that life held that was wortii living for to hor. 

And Alwyn Bartram stood for an instant alone, amid 
the tropical plants, and pallid statues, with the same dull 
sense of despair at his heart that had tilled Estulla Mai- 
lory's, not many days before. 

** If I lose my fortune 1 lose my bride!" ho thought, 
with that dull sense of horrible pain. ** She loves me, but 
she loves wealth better. And if 1 lose hor — *' 

He could not finish the sentence. Ten minutes later, 
when he came to say farewell to his hostess, she almost 
screamed aloud at sight of his white, drawn face. 

'* Good heavens! Mr. Bartram, you are ill! You look 
like a walking corpse!** 

** Yes, 1 am ill, he said, hoarsely. ** Pray excuse my 
hasty departure, and — good-night.'' 

He turned abruptly to go. As he did so, hu caught a 
last glimpse of his idol — not waltzing, but. leaning ou the 
arm of old Rutherford, the millionaire, her exquisite face 
luminous with smiles. He ground his teeth in jealous 
rage, and a second later was out under the chill morning 
stars. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

MISS DE MONTREUIL DECIDES. 

The October afternoon was closing down rainy and raw 
as Alwyn Bartram sprung from the cab that had conveyed 
him from the station, and rang the door-bell of his uncle's 
house. 

It was a dull old house, in a dull back street, with the 
noises of the city coming far and faint — doubly dull this 
wet October twilight. The whole front at the house was 
closed and dark, and the young man's impatient ring had 
to be repeated thrice before an answer came. Then the 
door swung back, and an elderly woman looked out. 

" What do you wish?" was her sharp query. ** Mr. 
Wylder is very sick, and can see no one. If it's a letter, 
the doctor don't allow him to read letters any more." 
It isn't a letter, madame, and Mr. Wylder will see m$. 



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ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



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Be good enough to tell him his nephew, Alwyn Bartram, 
has come.'* 

He made his way resolutely into the dim hall, despite 
the woman's resistance. But, at the announcement of his 
name, she suddenly subsided into civility. 

** I beg your pardon, sir, I'm sure, but I'm Mr. Wylder's 
nurse, and I only act up to my directions. So many gen- 
tlemen try to see him on business, you know, sir, and he 
isn't equal to business now. Please walk in; he expects 
you, I beliove." 

She closed the door again, and Mr. Bar tram found him- 
self in a long, dully lighted entrance hall, bare and bleak, 
with a wide, carpetless stairway at the further eud. 

*' How is Mr. Wylder?" he asked; " any better. ?*" 

** No better, sir; he never will be better again in this 
world! He is sinking fast; he will hardlv last the month 
out If you will wait here, I will go up and tell him you 
have come." 

She left him in the dark, chill hall, and ascended the 
stairs. Ir ten minutes she reappeared. 

** Mr. Wylder will see you at once. You know his room, 
sir — please come up." 

The young man ran up th^ stairs, along a second half- 
lighted hall, covered with a faded carpet, and tapped at 
the door of a room at the remote extremity. 

A weak, shrill voice called ** Come in," and opening 
the door, he found himself in the presence of the sick man, 
upon whose Sat the happiness or misery of his whole future 
life depended. 

It was a large room, but chill and draughty, and lighted 
by a shaded lamp. A wood fire burned dully on the hearth, 
a threadbare carpet covered the floor, cane-seated chairs 
stood primly round the walls, and in the center of the floor 
was the large, old-fashioned fonr-poster, whereon the sick 
man lay. A patch-work quilt covered it, a round table 
stood near, strewn with medicine vials, glasses, gruel-bowls, 
and a slippery, leathern-covered arm-chair stood beside it, 
close to the bed. Altogether the chamber looked dreary, 
and comfortless, and cold, and impoverished, and betrayed, 
in every thread of its worn carpet, in every creaky, time- 
worn chair that its occupant, if a rich man, was a miser. 

He half -sat up in the bed now, supported by pillows. 
In the dim light the old face looked gaunt and pinched. 



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131 



vith sunken cheeks and hoUow eyes. But the hollow eyes 
burned keenly still, and the thin lips were firmly, obstin- 
ately compressed. 

" So you have come,*' he said, fixing those glittering eyes 
sharply on the handsome face of his nephew; " you have 
come, Alwyn Bartram, and in time. You see the old man 
is down at last, never to rise again. I knew you would be 
here, and in time for the death!" 

*' Let us hope better things, ancle,*' the young artist 
said, gently, bending above him, and taking the cold, limp 
hand lying loosely on the counterpane. ** You are far 
from an old man jet, and people do not die with every 
illness. Let us hope a few weeks will see you restored 
again.** 

" Sit down,*' responded Mr. Wylder, harshly, '* and 
don't be a hypocrite! I am going to die, and you know it, 
and you wish it." 

Alwyn Bartram dropped his hand, and recoiled as if he 
had been cut with a whip. His dark face flushed deep, 
angry red. 

" I do not wish it!" he said. ** 1 have never wished the 
death of my worst enemy. Illness gives many privileges, 
but it gives you no right to insult me, Mr. Wylder." 

*' Well, sit down — sit down!" Mr. Wylder said, testily, 
but not displeased. '* How touchy the boy is! Like his 
father before him — proud and high-stomached. There! 
take a seat, and don't let a sharp word from the old man 
mount you on your high horse. If you did wish for my 
death it would be nothing unnatural — nothing out of the 
ordinary course. The heir's feet always ache to stand in 
the dead man's shoes." 



«( 



I have never looked forward to your death or your 
wealth. Uncle Wylder," Alwyn said, rather coldly. 
*' Your generous allowance has amply sufficed for every 
want, and I am not ambitious — in that way, at least. Live 
a score of years if you can, and enjoy the money you have 
earned; no one will rejoice more heartily than 1." 

" Well, well, well, don't let us talk about it. We will 
speak of yourself. What have you been doing since I saw 
you last?" 

*' Much the same as usual. Nothing of any great im- 
portance, I am afraid." 



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estella's husband. 



** And our wonderful art — our divine profession — in 
which we were to achieve such miracles — what of that?" 

The young man reddened again at the sneer^ this tinze 
not without a sense of guilt. 

** The miracles are still unachieved. I paint, but my 
paintings are rejected. Yet still I hope I will one dav be 
a painter.'' 

** A modern Raphael, no doubt,*' the old man said, with 
bitter sarcasm. *' Permit me to offer my congratulations 
beforehand. With such brilliant hopes of speedy fame and 
fortune, old Wylder, the money-grubbing, miserly stock- 
broker's wealth can matter little to you. It sets my mind 
at rest to know your future is secured, and leaves me free 
to follow my own inclinations.'' 

" You are always free," Alwyn Bartram said, though 
his heart sunk within him. ** The wealth you have 
amassed honorably, in the course of a long life, is certainly 
yours, to dispose of as you choose. You have been very 
gi od to me. Leave it as you may, I have no right to be 
anything but grateful." 

" Ah, philosophic, I see! How coolly the young men of 
the present day take the ups and downs of life! Mt. Al- 
wyn Bartram will scarcely miss what he values so lightly." 

" You are determined to misunderstand me, uncle," 
the young man said, repressing his anger by an effort; 
** but you ahoays misunderstood me. I suppose I am to 
conclude," looking him full in the eyes " that Robert 
Bartram is your heir?" 

" If Robert Bartram be alive," the old man said, slowly 
— "yes." 

On, Leonie! His thoughts went back to her as he had 
seen her last, bright, beautiful, heartless, with the sharp- 
est pang he had ever felt in his life. " If your uncle leaves 
you his fortune, I will be your wife; if not — " 

Alwyn Bartram turned very pale, but his dark, resolute 
eyes met those of the old man on the bed without flinch- 
ing. 

** Your fortune is your own, Mr. "Wylder. You have 
every right to leave it to your favorite nephew. For me, 
I am hardly surprised. I think I expected this." 

** There is still a chance," the sick man said, eagerly. 
** I can make a new will, and Robert Bartram was never 
my favorite nephew. Give up this nonsensical art; make 



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slowly 



have 
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9, bonfire of your easel and paint brushes; take to my bus- 
iness, and — " 

He stopped short His nephew had made an imperious 
gesture with hi? hand. 

*' I will never give up my art! It is dearer to me than 
anything else in the world — save one. I can never take to 
your business. I would be, indeed, what you called me 
when I entered this room — a hypocrite — if I promised that. 
Let Robert Bartram take your wealth, if Robert Bartram 
be alive, but I will never give u; ) my profession while my 
fingers can wield a brush!*' 

The dogged resolution, characteristic of the race they 
sprung from, looked invincibly out of the defiant eyes of 
both. 

" Be it so, then!" cried Mr. Wylder, setting his teeth. 
" You have chosen. The will that gives all to Robert 
Bartram is made; that will shall stand,, For you, you lose 
everything — your yearly allowance and all." 

Alwyn Burtram bowed, still with that fixed, resolute face. 

" And if Robert never appears?" he asked, steadily. 

** In that case,'* said Mr. Wylder, coldly, " the wealth 
shall not go out of the family. For the space of one year, 
vigorous search and inquiry shall be made for the missing 
man. If, at the end of the year, he appears, all shall be 
his. All! If he fails to appear, then, Alwyn Bartram, 
having no other living kin, it goes to you, undeserving as* 
you are. I am iiot of the sort that found asylums and en- 
dow hospitals. But Robert Bartram will be found." 

** Have ^'ou any reason for thinking so?" 

** None, except the old axiom that bad shillings always 
come back. And now, as I see by the clock yonder it is 
time for my supper and composing draught, you will be 
good enough to ring the bell for the nurse, and leave me. 
Your old room is prepared. How long do you mean to 
stay? Until all is over?" 

" I will stay until you are better or — " 

** Dead. I understand. Vwy well; but remember, my 
will is made. No act of yours now — no waiting, no devo- 
tion—can alter it. Robert Bartram takes precedence of 
you. I leave you nothing — nothing — not the price of a 
mourning ring." 

** You are exceedin^y candid. Still, I will stay." 

He rang the bell. The nurse appeared. 



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•* Good-night, uncle!" he said, kindlv, pausing an in- 
stant by the bedside on his way out. ** 1 wish you a good 
night's rest." 

But the sick man turned away his head sullenly, and his 
nephew quitted the chamber and went straight to his own. 

So it was all over, and he knew the worst. He sat down 
in his shabby little room, drew writing materials before 
him, and, without a moment's delay, began the promised 
letter to Leonie De Montreuil. 

Decision, resolution, were the young man's character- 
istics. He told hor the truth at once. 

•*1 have lost all," he wrote, with tragical intensity — 
•* even my yearly allowance. For the first time in my life 
nothing remains to me but my art. I am penniless — a 
worker for my daily bread. Well, be it so — that way 
honor lies. My future is my own to make, and it shall be 
one my Leonie will be proud of. Only wait, my darling. 
Be true and faithful for a little while; all will come right 
in the end. I remain here until the old man is better or 
dead; then back to New York, to love, to you, and my 
glorious idol — Art. Next winter 1 shall send a picture to 
the Exhibition that must succeed. Write to me, my own, 
my dearest, and let me see the precious words that tell my 
Leonie will wait for her adoring lover." 

Leonie De Montreuil sat alone in her room — a room 
beautiful and luxurious as its beautiffil and luxurious oc- 
cupant. She sat by the window, still wearinc; her morning 
neglige, although the October gloaming was settling down 
over the avenue. 

She lay back in her cushioned chair, two open letters in 
her lap, and an expression of unmitigated faulkiness on her 
dark face. One little, slippered foot beat an angry tattoo 
on the carpet, and the slender black brows were drawn in 
an impatient frown. 

** And after all my waiting, after all my hoping," she 
thought, bitterly, " this is the end. Nothing out disap- 
pointment on either hand." 

There was a soft tap at the door. 

** Come in, Clara," she said, in French; ** the house is 
thine own." 

The chamber door opened slowly, and her friend and 
hostess, Mrs. Manners, a pretty young matron, swept 



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estella's husband. 



IDS 



in, in rustling dinner-dress, ribbons fluttering, jewels 
sparkling. 

"Not dressed yet?*' she said; *' not even commenced, 
and past six, my dear Leonie! Ah, letters! No bad news, 
I trust?'' 

*' As bad as bad can be," Leonie said, bitterly. *' 1 am 
the most unfortunate girl alive, I think. Turn which way 
I will, there seems nothing but vexation and disappoint- 
ment for me." 

Mrs. Manners threw herself into afauteuil, and drew out 
her watch. 

" An hour yet until the dinner-bell rings. 1 am glad 1 
dressed early. Tell me all about it, m' amour. Who are 
your odious correspondents?" 

'* Count De Montreuil and — Alwyn Bariram." 

" Ah, Alwyn Bartram! And what does our handsome 
artist say for himself? Is the rich uncle dead, and ths 
* curled darling of the gods ' disinherited?" 

'* Yes, he is disinherited. All goes to a distant cousin." 

" Robert Bartram — mad Robert. 1 knew him once. 
Poor Alwyn! What will become of him now?" 

" Oh, he is to work woLders — to win for himself an im- 
mortal name, and wealth, and glory, with a few tubes of 
paint and a few yards of canvas! I have no patience with 
such ridiculous nonsense. Rubens and Raphael died along 
ago, and the race of immortals died with them. When 
Mr. Bartram has crows' -feet and gray hairs he may pos- 
sibly have achieved a decent competence, if he has the tal- 
ent he gives himself credit for. As it is — " 

The young lady shrugged her shoulders, and deliberately 
tore his letter in two. 

*' And the other? What says the stately count?" 

" That he is coming back to America to search for his 
lost daughter. A pleasant prospect for me ! He will find 
her, of course. She will be his heiress, his idol, and I — 1 
will be the companion, the poor relation — one step higher 
than mademoiselle's maid!" 

She seized the second letter fiercely, and tore it also into 
fragments, as she spoke. 

There was a soft rap; then the door opened, and the face 
of Aglae, Miss De Montreuil's maid, appeared. 

The French girl held in her hand a magnificent bouquet 
of rarest exotics. 



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** With Monsieur Eutherford's compliments/* she said, 
placing it before her mistress. '* When will mademoiselle 
DC pleased fco dress?" 

** In half an hour, Aglae. You may go." 

She lifted the bouquet, her dark eyes sparkling. The 
bright iittle brunette was passionately fond of flowers, but 
even in this her taste was artificial. Only the frailest and 
costliest hot-house blossoms pleased her luxurious eye. 

** Beautiful! Are they not?'' she said, inhaling their 
rich fragrance. '' Mr. Eutherford has exquisite taste." 

** Or his florist," Mrs. Manners said. '" But Mr. Ruth- 
erford's taste is undisputed — in some things. He admires 
you, my pretty Leo^iie. After all, let uncle and artist both 
fail, and Leonie De Montreuil need never sink into playing 
second fiddle. There are not a dozen wealthier men in 
wide America, my husband says, than William Ruther- 
ford." 

There was a pause. Miss De Montreuil flung the torn 
fragments of her letters contemptuously away, and bent 
her face above the tropical blossoms. 

" He dines here to-day?" ahe said. 

'* Yes. He haunts this house like a shadow of late. 
All's not lost that's in danger, Leonie. The wife of old 
Rutherford, the millionaire, will be a lady to be envied." 

** Ah, but he is old Eutherford," Leonie said, plaint- 
ively, " and 1 don't like old men." 

** Of course not; but, you see, unfortunately one can't 
have everything in this lower world. If one likes unlim- 
ited diamonds and pocket-money, a box at the opera, the 
best metropolitan society, a villa in the Highlands, a cot- 
tage on the Hudson, a brown- stone palace on Fifth Avenue, 
one must be content to endure a few drawbacks. If one 
prefers an artist, young, handoome, clever, penniless, a 
shabby tenement on the east side, print dresses, and a din- 
ner of hash and weak tea at high noon, why one can have 
that, too. Only, if our friends cut us dead, and love flies 
out of the window after the honey-moon, and our beauty 
withers, and we find ourselves an object of compassion to 
gods and men, we have no right to complain. We have 
made our own election, and must abide by it." 

There was blank silence. Miss De Montreuil was look- 
ing steadfastly out of the window. Mrs. Manners a second 
time glanced at her watch. 



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estella's husband. 



137 



Half past six. Really, Leonie, yonr maid will not have 
time to do herself justice this evening. I will go and send 
her up at once. Look your prettiest, and wear Mr. Ruth- 
erford's flowers, and be as sensible when he takes you in to 
dinner as it is the nature of eighteen to be. For the pres- 
ent, adieu!'' 

Mrs. Manners tripped lightly away, and sent Mile. Aglae 
upstairs at once. She was very fond of her pretty guest, 
and the rich Rutherford was a remote connection of her 
own. 

*' I hope she will have sense," she thought, as she sailed 
into the drawing-room to receive her guests. ** I hope she 
won't be silly and sentimental. And 1 don't thinK she 
will." 

The dinner-bell was clanging forth its summons as Miss 
De Montreuil floated — she always floated — into the gas- 
lit drawing-room. 

Very pretty she looked in her pink silk dinner-dress — 
the color of strawberry ice, with pearls in her rich black 
hair, and eyes like ebon stars. A cluster of Mr. Ruther- 
ford's waxen flowers nestled amid the foamy lace of her 
corsage, and Mr. Rutherford's old eyes absolutely lighted 
up as he recognized them. 

He came toward her, and took possession at once, as one 
having the right — a short, stout, red-faced old man of 
sixty, with a protruding under lip and two or three 
double chins. 

" Beauty and the Beast," whispered an envious adorer, 
hovering in the distance — '* Venus and Vulcan, Miranda 
and Caliban, May and December!" 

His companion laughed. 

*' Don't be slanderous. Is it a match, I wonder? 1 
thought Mr. Bartram was first favorite there?" 

** Mr. Bartram has been out of to^n over a week. Miss 
De Montreuil is a ' girl of the period. ' How can she pos- 
sibly remain faithful to an absent lover so long?" 

" Don't be sacrastic. I think your May and December 
will make an eminently suitable pair. She has no more 
heart than a mill-stone, that girl. There she goes on old 
Rutherford's arm in to dinner." 

" I pity old Rutherford. Come." 

Miss De Montreuil and her companion were very silent 
all though dinner. Mr. Rutherford did not understand 



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estella's husband. 



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the small-talk of sooiety, and the pretty brunette was e?er 
too languid to converse much. 

But all through the meal his eyes wandered to her ex- 
quisite face, with a doting infatuation only to be seen in 
the eyes of old men making idiots of themselves. 

*' I am gJud you wear my flowers/' he said, in a fat 
whisper. 1 hardly expected it. *' 

'* Ko? But they are so pretty, and I am very fond of 
flowers." 

They had adjourned to the drawing-room, and Mr. Ruth- 
erford had drawn the little belle to a remote sofa just big 
enough to hold both. A young lady at the piano was sing- 
ing a noisy operatic song, under cover of which more than 
one flirtation was carried on. 

** Are you? Ah, how 1 envy the flowejs! If I thought 
it would give you a moment's pleasure^all the c0nserva- 
tories in New York would be at your service." 

** You are very good." 

Miss De Montreuil did not lift her eyes. She felt what 
was coming, and her resolution y/iiV/A^ give way if she looked 
in that vulgar red face. 

" Do you know why I have come here to-night? Why I 
accept every invitation to this house? Why 1 am never 
happy out of it of late?" 

^' How should 1?" 

** Because you are here!" burst forth the millionaire; 
** because I am madly in love with you, beautiful Leonie, 
and want you for my wife!" 

There it was! Loonie's heart seemed to stand stock 
still, and she felt herself growing cold all over. The odious 
red face was very near her own now. 

*' Tm an old man. Miss De Montreuil, but 1 am also a 
rich man, and I lay my heart and my fortune here at your 
feet. I will only live to gratify your every whim — 1 will 
be your slave, your worshiper — my gold shall flow like 
water at your bidding. Only say you will be my wife!" 

His hot breath was on her cheek — his hateful face al- 
most touched her own. Leonie De Montreuil turned for 
an instant so deathly sick with repulsion that her parted 
lips refused to obey. And yet the bad, ambitious purpose 
within her never faltered. 

** Speak!" the old man said. '* Some one may come. 
Speak, and tell me you consent. Promise to be my wife. " 



estella's husband. 



139 



Some one was coming — Mrs. Manners. Leonie found 
her voice by an efTort. 

** You are very good/' she repeated, shrinking back a 
little as she said it, ** and I promise. I \fill be your wife.'' 



CHAPTER XV. 

** OH, MY amy! mine NO MORE!" 

A SUNLESS and gusty November day late in the month, 
the dead leave?? whirling in wild drifts before the chill wind, 
a threatening o( snow in the loaden air. A dull and cheer- 
less November afternoon, the black sky low-lying, a wail 
of coming winter in the sobbing blast tearing through the 
trees. And on this desolate autumn afternoon all that 
was mortal of Mn Wylder, the wealthy stock-broker, was 
laid in. its native clay. 

*' Ashes to ashes, dust to dust!" The clergyman's teeth 
chattered in his head as he rattled over the burial service, 
and the group gath(3red around the grave, while the sods 
clattered down, shivered in their great-coats. There were 
not many mourners — the miserly stock-broker had made 
but few friends. Foremost among those few stood the dead 
mail's nephew — the rejected heir, his handsome face very 
pale and grave, the wind blowing back his dark hair as he 
stood liat in hand. Disinherited as he was, he was yet, 
generous enough to be sincerely sorry for the old man, his 
faole living relative, and hitherto his kindest friend. 

The funeral over, Mr. Bartram made no longer delay in 
the Southern city. There was nothing now to detain him 
there, and he was feverishly impatient to get back to New 
York, to love, to Leonie. He had heard f i om her but once 
— the briefest of brief notes, in answer to that first impas- 
sioned letter. She was sorry for his ill-fortune; she hoped 
his bright dreams of future greatness might be realized; she 
hoped his uncle might yet relent, and — that was all. There 
was no promise of fidelity, no word of love or cheer., no as- 
surance that she was ready to wait even one poor year. It 
closed coldly and abruptly, and ao other letter had fol* 
lowed it. 

Alwyn Bartram reached New York, and went to hie? 
Jodgings at once to change his dress, preparatory to calling* 
:ipon Miss De Montreiul. A pile of letters lay awaiting 



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130 



estella's husband. 



him — chiefly duns. Ill news flies apace, and already the 
tailor and the bootmaker, and the florist and tho jeweler, 
were sendiut; in their liiitlo reminders to the discarded heir. 
Some half dozen cards of invitation were there, too — one 
to a conversazione at Mrs. Leesom's for that very night. 
He flung the duns aside, in angry impatience, and began 
his evenmg toilet at once. 

** * And the spoilers came down!' How soon the vult* 
ures alight on the dead carrioni It is no longer Mr. Bar- 
tram, the prospective heir to the Richmond stock-broker's 
wealth, but Alwyn Bartram, the impoverished artist, whom 
those gentlemen dun. I begin to And out the pleasantness 
of poverty very soon. I suppose I must give up these apart- 
ments with the rest," glancing around the elegant rooms, 
** and play Sybarite no longer. It must be bread and poor 
beef, and an attic chamber, and a threadbare coat for the 
future. No more little suppers at Delmonico's; no more 
lunches at the Maison Doree; no more the opera, diamonds 
to give and to uear; no more party-going or a faultless 
taste in horseflesh. No more the old life — nothing but hard 
work for the next twelve months at least. Well, so that 
Leonie is true, that fate has no terrors for me. How 
strange she has not written — not one of my letters an- 
fTer^i Surely, she is ill or out of town!'' 

No; Miss De Montreuil was neither. Mr. Bartram dis- 
covered that, when, an hour later, he stood on Mrs. Man- 
ners's marble doorstep, she was well and still in town, 
but " not at home." 

He remembered afterward the odd look with which the 
servant regarded him as he said it, but he turned away 
carelessly, leaving his card. 

"It is only a question of an hour or two," he said to 
himself. ** She is certain to be at Mrs. Leesom's." 

But again he was disappointed. When, a few hours 
later, looking wonderfully handsome and interesting in his 
mourning, Mr. Bartram presented himself in Mrs. Lee- 
som's elegant drawing-room, he saw hosts of people he 
knew, but no Leonie. 

" She is always late; she will be here presently," he 
thought. 

The disinherited heir found that his story had preceded 
him, and was forced to listen to speeches of condolence 
light and left. Bat the handsome face was so infinitely 



V' !" 



istella's husband. 



191 



calm and serene that people began to think their condo- 
lences a little out of place. 

His placid countenance only clouded for the first time 
when midnight came and his black-eyed enchantress still 
appeared not to light up the rooms with her beauty. 

" How very late Miss De Montreuil is to-night!" he said, 
carelessly, to Clara Leesom. ** And yet one invariably 
finds her here." 

Miss Leesom turned suddenly round upon him, with a 
broad stare. 

*'What!" she exclaimed. *' Is it really possible you 
don't know? Why, 1 thought of all people — " 

She stopped abruptly, coloring a little. 

A dull, quick pang of apprehension shot through the 
heart of the lover. He was right, then. Something had 
befallen his idol. 

** Nothing has happened, 1 trust?" he said, fixing his 
eyes, with a powerful glance, upon the young lady's em- 
barrassed face. '* Miss De Montreuil is well? 

" Perfectly well, I believe; only — Is it really possible, 
Mr. Bartram, that you have not heard?" 

His heart was plunging like a frantic courser against his 
side, and his voice was not quite under his control. 

** I have heard nothing. Remember, 1 have but just 
returned to the city, within the past few hours. I called 
upon Miss De Montreuil, but she was not at home." 

"Ah!" Clara Leesom said, and there was a world of 
meaning in the brief ejaculation. " Miss De Montreuil is 
invisible to most of her friends just now. And you really 
do not know? Yoii, of all people! How very odd! I 
took it for granted every one knew it." 

** Knew what ? For Heaven's sake. Miss Leesom, what 
do you mean? Surely, surely," as a horrible pang of doubt 
shot through him, " she has not gone back to France?" 

The young lady laughed. 

** Oh, dear, no! quite the reverse. She is a fixture in 
New York now, I fancy. Mademoiselle Leonie is not here 
to-night because one has no time for society the week be- 
fore one is married." 

" Married!" 

"Certainly, monsieur," gayly. **0n Thursday next 
we will have the grandest wedding of the season. Grace 
Church will be crowded to see the bride — undisputably the 



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handsomest of tho year. And so you did not know? Yoq 
really oaoie here ex|Mcting to see her? i£'./>traordinary!** 

Miss Leesoni settled her bracelets, with a light laugh^ 
and glanced sidelong up at her compunion. Truth to tell, 
she was not sorry to shoot a Parthian arrow or two at this 
handsome target, who had so often utterly overlooked her- 
self for the fairer Leouie. If she had ever felt a jealous 
pang, she was amply avenged now. The face of the young 
artist had turned to a dull, dead white. 

*' Married!*' he repeated, the word dropping mechan- 
ically from his lips. '* Married! and to whom?" 

*' Oh, Mr. Rutherford, of course — the best parti in the 
market. You see, Mr. Bartram, Miss I)e Montreuil is an 
eminently sensible young lady, and, to be a little vulgar, 
knows on which side her bread is buttered. Mr. Ruther- 
ford is rather a determined old gentleman, and when he 
proposed, rumor says, it was after the fashion of the lady 
m the Irish song — * Take me when Fm in the humor, and 
that's just now.* Miss Leonie's coquetry would not do 
here. It was * take me or leave me, and decide at once.' 
So she decided, of course — who could say ' No ' to a million- 
aire? — and on Thursday next they are to be married. I 
am so surprised you have not heard it; it is tho talk of the 
city. They say the trousseau is one of unparalleled mag- 
nificence, and the Rutherford mansion, up the avenue, is 
being refurnished in a style of princely splendor. Mr. 
Mamies gives the bride away, and there are to be nine 
bride-maids — myself among the j nber. The happy pair 
go to the cottage in the Highlands for the honey-moon. 
The marriage has been hurried on preposterously, I think; 
but old men are so impatient, and Leonie seems to yield 
to all his whims with a docility one would never expect from 
her. At eleven o'clock, next Thursday morning the cere- 
mony will take place. Of course you will make one of the 
bridal guests. You and Leonie were always such friends." 

A second sidelong look of feminine spite and triumph. 
Miss Leesom's vengeance was complete. He had heard 
every word — every cruel, pitiless word — of this chatter. 
And this was the reason of the unanswered letters — of 
iJeonie's dead silence. False! 

But his white face told little. Even his voice, when he 
spoke — and it seemed to him he paused for an hour or two 
before finding it — was but slightly changed. 



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£6TELLA S UUSltAM). 



139 



** This is all news to mo. As yoa say. Miss Leesom, it 
18 most extraordinary some of my many friends did not im- 

Sart tho aj^reeablo intelligence sooner. And so Leonio J)e 
[ontreiiil id to bo married to old Rutherford, and next 
Thursday is the day? 1 shall not fail to be at tho wedding. 
Permit me." 

He led her to a seat, dropped her arm without a word of 
«xcuse or apology, and walked straight out of the house. 

He forgot to go to the cloak-room for his overcoat, and 
tho November night was windy and cold. But he never 
felt it. 

He walked straight on, whither he knew not, through 
the deserted city streets, his face set, his eyes fixed, his hand 
clinched. On and on; streets, streets, streets; homeless 
women flitting by him like dark phantoms; drunken men 
reeling on their way; policemen straggling along their beats. 
Overhead sparkled the frosty stars and the keen, yellow 
moon — the ceaseless watchers in heaven. He neither felt, 
nor saw, nor heard, nor suffered — he was merely stunned. 

It was morning. The sun rose over the stony streets — 
those noisy, terrible streets of New York — and found him 
miles from home. With the new life of the new day, his 
stupor, his walking dream, ended. 

He realized and remembered all. He was worn out; and 
despairing lovers must eat and sl«^ep, although hearts be 
shattered and heads be reeling. Leonie De Montreuil was 
false, but Alwyn Bartram must go home and go to bed, and 
eat his breakfast presently, despite his bleeding wounds. 

He hailed a passing stage, and was rattled down Broad- 
way. At his hotel, he got out, went up to his own room, 
and flung himself, dressed as he was, upon the bed, worn 
out in body and mind. And sleep, the consoler, took him 
as a mother might her tired child, and in ten minutes all 
earthly troubles were ended, and he was wrapped in blessed 
Elysium. 

It was long past noon ere the young man awoke. As he 
opened his eyes and started up, memory came back like a 
sword- thrust, and told him all. 

False! false! false! his golden idol potter's clay — cruel, 
heartless, mercenary! On Thursday next to be married to 
old Hutherford, and this was Saturday morning. 

" I will see her!'* he said, setting his te»th hard. ** From 
her own lipg I will hear how false, and selfish, and cold- 



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134 



estella's husbanl 



blooded she can be! She shall see me face to face — she 
shall, by Heaven! — and then — " 

His face was absolutely livid, his hands clinched, his 
strong white teeth ground. 

** And then/^ he thought, in the fierce wrath and bitter- 
ness of his heart, ** men have shot women they loved for 
less!" 

But, though Mr. Bartram might propose, it was for Miss 
De Montreuil to dispose. An hour after, when for the sec- 
ond time he presented himself at the Manners 's doorstep, 
the answer was " Not at home." 

Mr. Bartram glared at the servant in a ferocious way that 
made the trained understrapper recoil. 

** Not at home! When will she be at home, pray?" 

** Can't say, sir," impassively, but keeping the door be- 
tween them. '* Miss De Montreuil don't receive callers 
this week." 

" Then I wish to see Mrs. Manners." 

** Not at home, sir." 

Again Mr. Bartram glared; again the tall footman re- 
coiled in alarm. 

It was plain enough the servant had received his orders. 
The troublesome lover was not to disturb the ante-nuptial 
serenity of the bride-elect 

** Give Miss De Montreuil this when she is at home." 

He drew forth his card, and wrote rapidly on the reverse 
side: 

'' 1 must see you! 1 shall see you! 1 will call again to- 
morrow at ten." 

The man took it with a bow. The next instant the 
house door closed with a sonorous bang upon the rejected 
lover. 

Alwyn Bartram passed that night in a horrible fever of 
suspense, half the time pacing his room. Morning found 
him haggard, and hollow-eyed, and wretched. Ten 
o'clock, to the minute, saw him again at Mrs. Manners's 
door. 

** Miss De Montreuil is engaged, and can see no ona 
She begs Mr. Bartram to excuse her." 

And, with the pitiless words, the door absulutely closed 
in bis face, leaving him, white and stunned, on the thres- 
hold. 



estella's husband. 



135 



Lanners s 



For fully five minutes he stood motionless; then, with a 
look on his face the heartless Leonie mi^t never forget 
had she seen it, he turned away. 

That was his last visit — the bride-elect was troubled no 
more. Immersed indiamoniis, point lace, orange-blossoms 
and white moire, there was little time left to think of her 
slaughtered victims; but at dead of night, in the quiet and 
darkness of her room, Alwyn Bar tram 'a face rose before 
her, pale and reproachful as a ghost. She had loved him 
— she did love him, never so well as now, when of her own 
free will she gave him up forever. 

** What a wretch he must think me! what a wretch I 
am!" she thought, covering the beautiful, wickef't face with 
both hands. ** I promised to love and be true to him al- 
ways, and see how I keep my word!*' 

But the days went on. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, 
Wednesday, and it was the ** night before the bridal." Up 
in the bride's '* maiden bower,*' all white and glistening lay 
spread the wedding paraphernalia. The parure of dia- 
monds and opals, pearls and turquoises fit for a queen lay 
blazing in their velvet nests — Mr. Ruthe /ford's princely 
gift. 

If remorse clutched at Leonie's heart, she had only to lift 
the lids of those dark caskets, and the sunbursts of splendor 
there hidden consoled her at once. 

Upon the bed, in all its white richness, shone the Paris- 
ian wedding-robe, the shining veil of priceless lace, the 
jeweled orange- wreath, the gloves, the slippers — pale as 
shimmering phantoms. 

And, in the midst of all this dazzle and snowy glitter, the 
bride walked up and down, clad in a loose dressing-gown, 
all her rich black hair unbound, the beautiful face white as 
her dress, the great, luminous<eyes darkly somber. 

** They are beautiful," she said, turning those dusky 
eyes upon the blazing gems, the wonderful robe and veil — 
" they are magnificent! But after all, is the game worth 
the candle? Will Alwyn Bartram's face haunt me all my 
life long, as it has done since I lost him? Will he despise 
and hate me, and give his heart to some one else, and will 
1 go mad and die with jealous rage and longing, when it is 
too late? Will diamonds, and dresses, and society, and all 
Mr. Rutherford's wealth can bestow fill this dreary void 
in my breast? 1 suppose 1 have a heart after all, and only 



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e3tella's husband. 



find it out by its aching. To-morrow I go to the altar, and 
sell myself, body and soul, to this old man — and oh, Alwyn, 
I love you! I love you! I love you!" 

She sunk down in the darkness of her room— the lamps 
had not yet been lighted — down in the very dust, her face 
buried in her hands. 

As she crouched there in a strange, distorted attitude of 
pain, her wild, loose hair streaming about her, the lover 
she had jilted would hardly have asked for sweeter revenge. 

Presently — hours after, it seemed to Leonie — there was 
a tap at her door. She lifted her haggard face, but did 
not rise. 

*' It is I, my dear," Mrs. Manners's voice said; " open 
and let me in. " 

" Not to-night," was the answer; " my head aches. 
Leave me alone this last night. " 

" But, my dear, Mr. Rutherford is here, and most 
anxious to see you." 

** 1 am not dressed. 1 am going to bed. Tell Mr. Ruth- 
erford I shall not leave my room to-night." 

Mrs. Manners turned away with an impatient frown. 

** Whimsical, obstinate girl! 1 believe she is in love with 
young Bartram, after all, and is repenting now that it is 
too late. But she will not draw back — that is one com- 
fort!" 

Leonie slowly arose, twisted up her loose hair, and sat 
down by the window. The November stars sparkled frost- 
ily, the full yellow moon lighted up the deserted avenue. 
No, not quite deserted; opposite, standing still as a statue, 
gazing fixedly up at her window, stood a tall, dark figure, 
motionless. 

With a low cry, the girl drew back; no need to look 
twice to recognize Alwyn Bartram. 

He had not seen her; she knew that, after the first wild 
pang of fear. But she could see him plainly, standing 
there, a tall, dark ghost, the moonlight streaming full upon 
his pale face. How deathly pale tl^t handsome face was? 
In his shroud and winding-sheet it could never look more 
marble-like and rigid. 

" And it is my doing," she thought, her heart thrilling, 
" and I love him! Oh, Alwyn! Alwyn! Alwyn!" 

She fell on her knees, screened by the window-curtain, 
and watched. What would happen? what was he doing 



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>ne com- 



therer Was he waiting to waylay and murder Mr. Ruth- 
erford on his way home? He was just the kinil of man, 
this dark-eyed, hot-blooded, fierce-tempered lover of her» 
to do such a deed. 

She shivered convulsively, crouching there, the throbbing 
of her heart turning her deathly sick. Oh! what woultt 
happen to-night? 

Nothing happened. The house door opened; Mr. Ruth- 
erford came forth, and walked briskly up the avenue, and 
still the dark figure never stirred. It might have beea 
carved in 8t#ne, so motionless it stood. Mr. Rutherford 

fassed from sight — his home was but a few doors off — and 
jeonie breathed again. 
*' Thank Heaven!" she thought—** thank Heaven! It 
IB to watch my window, not to commit murder, he is there. 
My poor Alwyn! my poor, poor Alwyn! Will any one in 
this world ever love me again as you do?" 

The hours wore on, and still that strange vigil was kept. 
The despairing lover gazed at his lady's lattice, as hundreds 
of despairing lovers have done before him, and William. 
Rutherford's bride-elect watched him on her knees. 

Midnight came, passed, but he never stirred. Worn out 
at last, Leonie's head dropped forward on the window-sill, 
and she fell fast asleep. 

V *tF •!* •!• •!• •!• T» 

The fashionable Broadway church was crowded. Silks 
rustled and jewels flashed, and perfume filled the air as the 
elite flocked in. 

As Clara Leesom had said. Miss De Montreuil's wedding 
was to be the wedding of the season. The beauty of the 
bride, and the wealth of the bridegroom, were the talk of 
the citv. 

It was a clear case of buying and selling — every specta* 
tor there knew that; but society approves of this sort of 
thing, and society mustered strong to behold the bargain 
clinched. Long before the hour for the ceremony the 
stately church was filled. 

They came at last — the bridal train. Mr. Rutherford, 
red-faced, portly, vulgar, self-conscious as ever. But na 
one glanced twice at hi?n. A silver-shining vision swept up 
the carpeted aisle upon the arm of Mr. Manners— a vision 
of such dazzling beauty and splendor that society fairly 
caught its breath with speechless admiration. 



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ESTULLA'S HUSBAND. 




Pale as a lily, bnt lovely beyond comparo, in that exqni* 
site dress and yell, half hidden in the silvery cloud of laoe, 
the long lashes s^veeping the colorless cheeks. Miss De Mon- 
treuil floated by as Miss De Montreuil for the last time. 

Many a fair patrician bosom throbbed with bitterest envy 
as its owner gazed; many a masculine heart that shoulil 
have been better regulated quickened its beating as she 
went by. 

And standing near the door, half hidden by a marble pil- 
lar, was one whose dark face never moved a muscle as the 
radiant apparition flashed by. 

He was long past that — poor Alywn Bartram! What he 
had suffered, what he did suffer words are weak to tell; but 
the haggard face and hollow eyes betrayed little of the 
deathly bitterness and despair within. 

The organ pealed forth its grandest notes — the cere- 
mony began. Dead silence fell — you might have heard a 
pin drop. The solemn words were spoken; the marriage 
rite was over; William Rutherford and Leonie De Mon- 
treuil were man and wife until death should them part. 

The bridal cortege swept down the aisle and out. As 
the bride, leaning on her husband's arm, passed that mar- 
ble pillar, a tall young man stepped forwara, stood straight 
in their way, and looked her full in the face. 

She just repressed a cry, and no mora A specter in its 
grave-clothes could hardly have been more terrible to her 
then; no dead man, murdered by her cruel hand, could 
have looked at her with more passionately reproachful eyes. 
Then he stepped back and let them pass. 

The bridegroom's red face turned redder with sardonic 
triumph, and his fat, protruding under lip came out a little 
further. That was all; there was no scene; a very few 
noticed the young man at all. 

The carriages rattled away, bearing off the happy pair 
to their blissful honey-moon. The crowd dispersed, chat- 
tering volubly; the church was deserted and closed. And 
Alwyn Bartram stood alone in busy Broadway, with the 
garish sunshine everywhere, and the endless stream of life 
flowing by. 

Alone! Friends, future, love, all lost — poor and alone! 
Oh, little Estella! if you were wronged, surely your hour 
of vengeance had come I 






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CHAPTER XVI. 

ON CHRISTMAS-EVE. 



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And there is no hope, Doctor Sinclair?" 

** While there is life there is hope. Miss Mallory." 

Helen Mallory turned round from the window with a 
gmile upon her pale face — a smile very sad to see. 

'* 1 think 1 know what that means — the old formula. 
Well, »^octor, I am glad I know my fate. I thank you for 
your candor. How long will this fleeting flame of life 
last?" 

** Impossible to say with any certainty, my dear Miss 
Mallory. Life is sometimes prolonged indefinitely in 
these cases, sometimes goes out like the snuff of a candle. 
Let us hope you may have many years before you yet 
Don't distress yourself by dwelling upon what you have 
forced me to say. You may outlive the best of us." 

Again Helen Mallory smiled — that faint, melancholy 
smile. 

They were alone together — doctor and patient — in the 
pleasant drawing-room of the Chelsea home. 

" You are very good. Doctor Sinclair. 1 am not in the 
least distressed. I have few ties to bind me to life. I 
have long suspected my fate, and I have looked upon 
death before now with a quiet eye. 1 will not detain you 
longer. Permit me to thank you once more for your can- 
dor, and — gocd-morning!" 

The doctor departed. Helen sat down alone, her thin 
hands folded in her lap, her large, brown, melancholy 
eyes fixed on the quiet, sunlit street. 

** So," she thought, with a strange calm, ** 1 know the 
worst — I am to die. Well, as I said, there are few ties 
"io bind me to earth. Death and the grave have little ter- 
ror for me, and yet — poor Estella — it is hard to leave her 
alone and unprotected in this big, bad world. There is 
Norah, of course; but I had hoped to see her in the safe 
shelter of a loving husband's arms. My poor little Essie! 
She, too, has been learning life's bitterness of late. 1 al- 
most wish Alwyn Bartram had never come here. I almost 
wish I had not written last week to ask him again. Is it 
you, Norah? Come in." 



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Thertj had been a rap at the door. It opened, and Korah 
entered, with three letters and a paper in her hand. 

**Poslmun'8 been, ma'am. 1 saw Doctor Sinclair go 
away. What does he say. Miss Helen?" 

She spoke abruptly, not looking at her »nistress. But 
Hek'ii's face was chaiigelessly calm. 

*' What I told you he would say, my good Norah. No 
earthly power can restore me to health. The fiat has gone 
forth — my days are numbered." 

*' These doctors know no more than other folks some- 
times," Norah said, harshly. '* I never had no great 
opinion of old Sinclair, either. Don't mind his croaking. 
Miss Helen. You will be better by the spring." 

*' I hope so, Norah," with a misty, far-away look in the 
beautiful eyes — *' free from pain forever. Ah! what is this? 
A letter from France — from the Count De Montreuil! 
Norah, where is Estella?" 

'* Out walking, as usual. The child will wear herself off 
her feet. Yesterday she went to Chelsea Beach, to look 
at her old friend, the sea, she said. I shouldn't wonder 
but what she's gone there again. ' ' 

But the mistress had not waited for the answer. She 
had torn open the large, official-looking seal, and was 
glancing eagerly over its contents. Norah waited near the 
door. 

"* What does he say. Miss Helen, please? He is not 
going to force away Miss Essie, surely?" 

** He could hardly do that," Helen said, proudly. ** He 
can not take Estclla, unless Estella chooses to go. But he 
wants her — yes. lie is quite alone in the world now, he 
says — the possessor of immense wealth, and the highest 
position in the brilliant circles of Paris. A favorite ward, 
the daughter of a distant cousin, whom some years ago, he 
adopted as his heiress, has recently made a wealthy mar- 
riage, and left him doubly alone. He wishes most ardently 
for his daughter. He asks me if it is fair to let old jeal- 
ousies rankle between us, and keep Gaston De Montreuil's 
only child out of the lofty sphere in which he can place her. 
And, Norah, I begin to tliink it is not." 

" What!" exclaimed Nonih, tihrilly. ** You never mean 
to send the child away to that nasty foreigner — to that 
wicked, far-off city — among a pack of rubbishing French? 
You never mean to do it. Miss Helen!" 






estella's husband. 



141 



'' Norah, that * nasty foreigner ' is the child's father/' 

" And what if he is? A pretty father l>e^ll be to her! A 
pretty husband he was to his wife! Don't you do it. Miss 
Helen, or you'll repent it ull your life, and break the poor 
dear's heart, besides. She's lonesome enough, and dismal 
enough, ever since that young man left lus^ September 
without thai. Drat the men!" cried Norah, with a 
vicious glare; " they're all alike." 

Miss Mallory smiled, but the smile ended in a sigh. 

** They make mischief wherever they go — don't they, 
Norah? Let us thank our lucky stars that we, at least, 
hare escaped their clutches. Poor little Essie! It was all 
my fault, I am afraid, and she is so romantic, and Alwyn 
so handsome. Don't be too hard on him, Norah; he can't 
help that face of his, or all those winning ways, and he 
can't fall in love with our little girl and marry her, just to 
please two sentimental, match-making old maids. Here 
is a note from him, accepting my invitation to come and 
spend Christmas with us. Very good of him, is it not, to 
leave his gay life in New York, for our dull old Chelsea 
homestead?" 

Norah's answer was a contemptuous snort. 

" Better have let him stay — that's my opinion, Miss 
Helen; but it's likely you know best. He'll only make 
that child worse, with his wishy-washy picture-painting and 
piano-sfcrumming, and song-singing, and walking, and 
gadding. He'll make her worse than she is, and that's 
bad enough, goodness knows, and then he'll go off at New 
Year's, and we'll all have the mopes for a month. You 
can do as you like, but if 1 was mistress I'd no more let a 
man near the house than 1 would a fiery d ragon. There!" 

" Norah, hush!" cried her mistress, impetuously. 
" Listen to this." 

^ She had torn open the third letter, and her thin cheeks 
flushed and her eyes kindled, as she read its few curt 
lines: 

•' Fisher's Folly, Nov. 2%th, 18—. 

" Miss Helen Mallory: Madame, — It is my painfui 
duty to announce to you the death of my friend and your 
nephew-in-law. Captain Roysten Darrell. The * Haven ' 
was wrecked off the coast of Bermuda, and all on board 
perished. I send you a paper containing a full account of 
the disaster. Mrs. H. D. is consequently a widow^ and 



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estella's husband. 



when her wealthy father makes her his heiress^ 1 trust to 
her generosity and sense of justice to remember hand- 
somely the old man who was a parent to her for so many 
years. 

** Very truly yours, 

** Peter Fisher." 

"There, Norah!" exclaimed Helen, eagerly, **Estella 
is free!" 

'* Thank the Lord!" said Norah; " not that I thought 
she was anything hut free. Still, it's a great deal better 
he's drowned and out of the way; he can make her no 
trouble in the future. Don't sit up too long. Miss Helen, 
and don't tire yourself reading. Will 1 send Miss Essie to 
you when she comes in?" 

" Yes; I will remain here. How relieved the poor child 
will be at the thought of her freedom! The fear of this 
Roysten Darrell has been her waking nightmare all along." 

Norah quittejl the drawing-room, and descended to the 
kitchen, to prepare supper. The short December after- 
noon, with its pale, yellow sunshine, speedily darkened 
down, and the twilight lay grayly in the dull street when 
the area door opened and Ei^^ella came wearily in. 

She had sadly changed since the bright September. Her 
step was slow; he cheek was pale and thin; the glad, buoy- 
ant light was gone from the brown, beautiful eyes. She 
looked wan and weary as a tired spirit, coming in through 
the misty gloaming. 

** At last. Miss Essie," Norah said, sharply. " 1 began 
to think you were lost. Where have you been all the 
afternoon, pray? Back to Chelsea Beach, I'll be bound." 

** Yes," said Estella, listlessly. *' I like to go there. It 
is like gazing on the face of an old friend to sio and look 
on the sea. Where is Aunt Helen?" moving away. *'Up 
in her room?" 

" No; in the drawing-room, and waiting for you — and 
good news, too." 

" Good news!" Estella stopped short. ** Oh, Norah! is 
it from — from New York?" 

" From Mr. Alwyn Bartram?" said Norah, shortly. 
** Yes, she's got a letter from him saying he's coming to 
spend Christmas, if you call that good news. 1 don't! I 
wish he was at the bottom of Boston Bay — there! Go 



bstella's husband. 



143 



aloDL with your I'm aggravated enough .iiout you 
standiDK staring!" 

Estella kuew testy Norah well enough not to mind these 
little ebullitions of temper. Her heart gave a great bound 
at the news she heard — that poor, foolish heart that loved 
thfe handsome painter so dearly. He was not married yet, 
then, else he had not accepted Aunt Helen's invitation. 

** He is mourning for his uncle, no doubt," she thought, 
*' and must wait a little, it will come, all the same. Oh, 
what a foolish, foolish girl I am to feel like this, because 
1 am going to see him once more — see him who does not 
care one straw for me! And he hiows I love him, and I 
shall never, never be ab^ > look him in the face again I" 

She ascended to the d .v ing-room, and found Aunt Helen 
still seated by the window, her letters and papers loose in 
her lap. 

She sat gazing dreamily out at the December twilight, 
lighted with sparkling, wintery stars. 

" In the dark, auntie?" Estella said, quietly. " Shall 
I light the gas?" 

Helen Mallory turned round to her niece with a bright, 
loving smile. 

*' Back, my dear? How tired you must be! Norah says 
you walk all the way to Chelsea Beach. Too far, my 
dear — too far!" 

^* I am so strong, auntie," with a dreary little sigh; 
'* nothing hurts me. Norah told me you had good news 
for me — good news! What is it?" 

She had lighted the gas, and now stood removing her hat 
and mantle. Helen Mallory, for answer, placed Peter 
Fisher's letter in her hand. 

*' Bead that, my dear. Your bugbear will be your bug- 
bear no longer. You need never fear Roysten Darrell on 
this earth again." 

^^Dead!" Estella said, her great eyes dilating. 
'* Drowned! how terrible! And yet—oh. Aunt Helen, is 
it right to be thankful at any fellow-creature's death?" 

** Let us forget him, my dear; let us only remember he 
can never persecute you more. You are free from his 
machinations forever — free to marry whomsoever you 
please. W ill you read Al wyn Bartram s note. He is com* 
ing to s{)end Christmas." 

The girl's pale face flushed. She took the note and ma 



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bstella's husband. 



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over the brief contents. Very brief — only two or three 
lines to say he would come. She did not give it back 
when she had finished; she crushed it m her hand, and 
kept it there. 

'* And here is a third letter from your father/' Helen 
said — ** the most important letter of the three. Essie, my 
dear, ho wants his daughter very much." 

" Does he?" very coldly. '' Well, he can not have 
her." 

" My dear, sit down and let us talk it over. My feelings 
have changed, Estella, toward the man who wronged my 
sister. We must forgive, as we hope to be forgiven. 
And, after all, no one alive has the claim upon you he has 
— your father." 

" A father 1 have never seen — whom I never want to 
eee. Aunt Helen what have I done that you wish to be rid 
of me? to send me to this strange man? 

■* Essie dear, you know better than that — you know 1 
could not part with my little ^irl if I tried. It is not that 
I wish to send you away — it is that I must leave you, and 
▼ery soon." 

** Leave me. Aunt Helen?" 

** Dear child — ^yes. Doctor Sinclair was here this after- 
noon while you were out, and what 1 have lon^ suspected 
will come true. You know what I mean, Essie. I have 
spoken to you of this before. Death will part us, and 
very soon." 

** Auntie, auntie — don't! 1 can't bear it I" 

She could say no more. The quick tears of sixteen 
started and choked her voice; Helen Mallory's own eyes 
were humid. 

" I don't say this to distress you, my pet — only to show 
how soon we must part. And I can not leave you alone 
with only Norah for a protector; therefore, when I go, 1 
think — I really think, Estella, you must return to your 
father. 1 had hoped — but I am only a foolish, sentimen- 
tal woman, and that hope is past." 

Estella lifted her hand and kissed it. No need of words 
to tell what that past hope had been. 

** 1 will write to your father in the course of a few 
weeks, my dear, and tell him all. When 1 am gone — my 
child, my child, be calm — he will come for you, and take 
you to sunny France, where my Eslella will reign en 



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estella's husband. 



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princisse. But while 1 live, my dear, we will never part. 
Let us talk of this no more; let us wait and trust in the 
good God not to separate us too soon. Come, dear child: 
Norah will be waiting supper. " 

The subject was dropped; not one of the three spoke of 
it again, but on every heart the thought of the coming 
parting lay like lead. 

" I can not reconcile myself to let her go to her father,** 
Helen Mallory thought. '* Oh, why could not Alwyn love 
her and marry hor — my pretty Essie? Whv must things 
go so crooked that might be straight? My fortune would 
render him independent of his profession and his uncle, 
and she would make him such a dear little, loving wife. 1 
should have nothing left to desire, if 1 could only see her 
his wife. ** 

The December days wore on. Life went very quietly in 
that dull old house with only those three women. Alwyn 
Bartram's coming was the only event likely to disturb the 
stagnant current of their slow lives. To Estella fell the 
pleasant task of preparing his room — and oh, what pains 
the girl took to beautify and adorn that sacred chamberl 
The books he had read, the pictures he liked, the colors he 
preferred, the flowers that were his favorites, all found their 
way there. Brightly burned the fire on his hearth-stone, 
and Estella's Christmas-gifts— biippers, dressing-gown and 
smokiug-cap, all her own handiwork — lay awaiting the 
coming of the dark-eyed hero. 

He came at last — a week before Christmas — late in the 
evening of a snowy, windy day. A cab rattled up to the 
door — trunks and valises were taken off, and Mr. Bartram 
himself, in furred cap, and long, picturesque cloak, sprung 
out and rang the bell. 

Estella saw him from the drawing-room window, where 
ihe had hidden behind the curtain, and her heart throbbed 
at the sight of that tall, graceful form, as though it would 
burst its way and fly to him. Another instant, and she 
heard his voice in the hall greeting Norah and Aunt 
Helen — that dear voice, the sweetest music earth ever held 
for her! Another, and he would be before her in the draw- 
ing-room. 

A sudden paroxysm of girlish fear seized her; she fled 
incontinently up to her own room. 

" How shall I meet him?' ' she thought, hiding: her bom- 



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estella's husband. 



ing face in hor hands. ** Oh, how shall 1 meet him, when 
I love him so dearly — so dearly — and ho Itnows it?" 

Sho heard him pass into his apartment — she heard Aunt 
nelen give him naif an hour to change his dress before 
dinner. 

*' We dine late, out of compliment to you, Alwyn,'* Miss 
Mallory said. *' You are accustomed to late hours, of 
course; so don't spoil Norah's temper and broiled birds by 
keeping us waiting. How do you like your room? Estolla 
arranged it." 

" It is perfect! Mademoiselle's taste is exquisite. Where 
is she, pray?" 

" In her room. Don't stand talking! Beautify your- 
self, and come down. *' 

Miss Mallory descended. Estella went over to the mirror 
ior a parting peep. 

How would he think her looking? she wondered. She 
had taken such pains with her toilet; she wore all the 
colors he had told her she should wear, and the mirror 
certainly reflected back a bright little image. 

The silk dress of brilliant bine set off the fair complexion 
and shining brown hair. The thin, pale cheeks were 
flushed, the yellow-brown eyes full of streaming light 

Yes, she was pretty; but the image of that pictured face 
arose before her — the darkly beautiful face of Leonie — and 
she turned way in cold despair. 

** What does it matter?" she thought, bitterly; " what 
does it signify whether I look well or ill? He will never 
glance at me twice!" 

She went down to the drawing-room, and, seating her- 
self at the piano, began to play softly in the fire-light 

She had a natural talent for music, and already her sing- 
ing and playing were the pride of Helen's heart That 
fond protector looked at her now with kindling eyes. 

** How pretty she is! how pretty — how pretty!" she 
said, to herself. ** Surely, Alwyn Bartram must be stone- 
blind if he does not admire my brown-eyed darling. Only, 
unhappily, admiration is not love. " 

Alwyn" Bartram entered as the fancy crossed her uijik:, 
and walking over to the piano, held out his hand to Es- 
tella. 

** We meet sooner than we thought la&L September, Misf^' 
Essie/' he said. * ' Tell me you are glad to see me agaiiL- " 



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estella's husband. 



147 



She laid her hand in his, her lingers turning cold in his 
grasp — her voioe quite gone. She tried to say something, 
but only an inarticulate murmur came. 

Norah appeared to the rtauue. 

** Dinner, Miss Helen'/' throwing open the drawing- 
room door, sharply; " and everything getting cold.'* 

Mr. Bartram drew Estella's hund within his arm, and 
followed Miss Mallory to the dining-room. 

Here the gas bhized down upon the antique silver and 
china, and here, for the first time, the female triad had a 
full view of their guest. 

** Alwyn,"Mi8s Mallory said, hurriedly, *' have you been 
ill?" 

For the dark face looked haggard and worn, the cheeks 
sunken, the large eyes hollow, and deep lines that only 
time or trouble can plow furrowed the smooth, broad 
forehead. 

** He's got ten years older since last September!" cried 
Norah. ** lie looks like a man just out of a sick-bed. " 

Estella's great brown eyes fixed themselves in wordless 
inquiry upon the handsome, altered face. She, too, saw the 
change. 

Alwyn Bartram laughed, but the laugh sounded hollow 
and mirthless, and a fierce flash shot from his somber eyes. 

** Sick?" he said. ** No, I am never sick. 1 have been 
working hard — that is all. I have to labor for my daily 
bread now, you know. Helen, never mind my haggard 
looks — a week in old Chelsea will set me up again." 

** Can it be the loss of his uncle's wealth?" thought 
Helen. ** He is in debt, no doubt — young men are always 
in debt. Something is certainly wrong. Ah, if he would 
only marry Estella, and take my fortune, how gladly I 
would resign it! If 1 could only summon courage to 
speak." 

*' Can that beautiful lady have deserted him?" tiiought 
Estella, stumbling unconsciously upon the truth. " Some 
great trouble has surely come to him. But, no! No lady 
alive could prove false to liim /" 

'* He's bilious," thought Nora; *' your dark, thin people 
are always bilious, and, I dare say, if the truth was known, 
he drinks more that is good for him. Young men always 
do; and they sit up all night playing cards and going ta 
parties. He's bilious — that's what't the matter." 



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estella's husband. 



So each had her own theory, but no one spoke. There 
was that iu the rigid compression of his mustached mouth, 
in the fiery gleam of his nollow eyes that warned them his 
altered looks was dangerous ground. He eat and drank, 
he talked and laughed; but the appetite for Norah's dain- 
ties was forced, and the talk and the laughter had a forced 
and joyless sound. 

Helen Mallory watched her guest very closely, very 
silently, during the next three or four days. He had set 
up his easel iu his pretty room, and worked hard; and 
Helen had a fancy for taking her sewing and sitting by the 
sunlit window while he painted. Sometimes Estella 
came, too, but not often; she had her studies, her music, 
and dearly as she loved to be near him she yet shrunii 
from the gaze of those powerful dark eyes. 

Did he not know her secret? Must he not in his inmost 
heart despise her for her folly? And Alwyn Bartram 
smoked and painted, and the dark gravity of his face never 
wore away, and the smiles that answered Helen's were cold 
and fiittiug as starlight on snow. 

** Alwyn." she said, tenderly, one evening, ** what does 
it all mean? Will you not tell the friend, who loves you 
almost as a mother might love, this great trouble of your 
life? It is not the loss of John Wylder's wealth — 1 know 
that." 

It had grown too dark to paint. They sat alone together 
in the December darkness, only the flickering light of the 
fading fire lighting the room. The young man's face, in 
the luminous dusk, looked cold and fixed as stone. She 
laid her hand upon him, and bent toward him. 

** Alwyn, my boy, tell Heleu what it is. Who knows? 
she may be able to help you." 

" No one can help me, and 1 nerd no help," he answered, 
in a cold, measured voice. ** I hi ve been a fool, and have 
met a fool's punishment — that is all. 1 richly deserve what 
I have suffered — what I suffer still, I have been the most 
egregious idiot, Helen Mallory, that ever laid life, and 
heart, and soul at a woman's feet, to be trampled on at 
her pleasure!" 

** A woman! Then I was right — it is not the loss of your 
'nheritance, after all?" 

** My inheritance? no — and yet, yes, for the loss of it 
has lost me all. It is an old story, Helen, and not worth 



ESTELLA S HLSHAIhD. 



149 



repeating — the old story of Delilah over again. I trusted, 
»nd have beeu betrayed; aud when a man has played the 
fool as long as 1 have, he can not become wise all in a 
moment. We'll not talk of it; deeper wounds than mine 
have been cauterized, and I richly deserved it all." 

Helen looked at him wistfully. 

** My poor boy! if I could only console you! Oh, Alwyn, 
if you had only turned to the girl who loved you, not to the 
girl you love!" 

** I love no one!'' he answered, sternly — '* no one! But 
I don't understand. Who is mad enougli, blind enough, 
to love me?** 

** Alwyn, do you really need to ask that question?" 

There was silence. The winter twilight deepened and 
deepened; she could hardly see his face now. 

* I think I understand you," he said, slowly; *' I suppose 
you mean Estella. But you are mistaken ; she is only a 
child, and she cares for me as she does for Edgar Ravens- 
wood, or Earnest Maltravers, or Vivian Grey, or any other 
of her ideal heroes. She is a romantic child, and I am to 
her what they are — an image to dream of for a week or 
two, until a newer hero comes. Your little niece does 
not know what love means. " 

" 1 hope so," Helen said, quietly, repressing a sigh. 
" Perhaps you are right; and yet — oh, Alwyn! could you 
not care for her? She is pretty enough, surely." 

** Too sweet and too pure for me. No, Helen; 1 have 
done with love and love-making forever. The lesson one 
false woman has taught me shall last me all my days. I 
would not darken our pretty Essie's young life if I could 
by linking it with mine. And, besides, how could you part 
with her? She is all you have. " 

'* We must part," replied Helen, ** and before long. I 
suppose it is the dread of leaving her alone and friendless 
that makes me speak. My fortune, Alwyn— -no princely 
one, it is true — would still have sufficed for you and her, 
even if Robert Bartram should turn up. It has been the 
dream of my life to see her your wife, but like most of my 
life-dreams, it seems doomed to disappointment. Look in 
my face, Alwyn, and read my fate there. Essie and 1 must 
part. At least you will be as a brother to her when 1 am 



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** Dear Helen^ could 1 be less? 1 have no words to tell 











150 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



you h»w sorry I Ahi, and yet I have suspected something 
of the kind this many a day. iStill^ let us hope the time of 
parting may be far off; some one more worthy of youp 
pretty niece than a jilted wretch like me may have wooed 
and won her long before. She cares nothing for me, and 
I would be a villain, indeed, if I tried to link her bright 
life to such a wreck as mine has become. Men's hearts 
don't break easily; but better men than 1 have gone head- 
long to perdition for less provocation than a false woman has 
given me. " 

Silence fell. Alwyn Bartram rose, after a time, and 
quitted the room. 

*' I will take a turn in the starlight and smoke a cigar 
before dinner," he said. ** Tell Norah not to fidget rll 
keep nobody waiting." 

And so it had ended. Holen Mallory got up with a 
long-drawn sigh and went slowly to her room. 

** Like all the rest," she thought, bitterly; ** like every 
hope of my life — doomed to end in nothing." 

Kext day was Christmas-eve — bright, sparkling, frosty. 
All day long Estella flitted like a brown-eyed bird from 
room to room, decking them with wreaths and evergreens, 
and singing as she worked. 

She loved Alwyn Bartram, her dark-eyed, moody hero, 
very dearly, very hopelessly, but her heart was not quite 
broken, and possibly never would be. 

She could sing still — one can hope so much from young 

Eersons of sixteen. Helen was ill — an attack of nervous 
eadache that kept her confined to her room. 

Mr. Bartram was finishing his Christmas picture — a 
little German scene of Kriss Kringle — a pot-boiler, such 
as he had to paint and sell now to appease his relentless 
creditors. 

Norah, down in the kitchen, was immersed in her tur- 
keys, and mince pies, and plum pudding. 

The day went — the day whose one event was to alter the 
whole future lives of Alwyn and Estella. 

That event was the coming of the postman. It was 
already dark — the short December day — when the sharp 
ring echoed through the house. Estella ran to the door. 
There were a half a dozen letters for Alwyn Bartram. 
Her light tap made the artist drop his brush and open the 
door. 






estella's husband. 



151 



How pretty she looked! His lamp was lighted, and in 
its glow he could seethe flushed cheeks, the sparkling eyes, 
the smiling lips. How pretty she was! His artist's eye 
lighted as he saw her. 

'* Letters for you, Mr. Bartram." 

She dropped them in his extended hand, and was gone. 

The young man's face darkened into an impatient frown. 
Letters of late had been one of the most annoying events of 
his existence. 

" More duns," he thought, angrily. " The harpies will 
have their pound of flesh, do what I may. 1 work like a 
galley-slave, but I can not appease them." 

He tore open the bufi envelopes. Yes, duns — duns pa- 
thetic, duns eloquent, duns vituperative — five of them! 

To make the matter worse, they were debts contracted 
for faithless Leonie— the jeweler, the florist, the bookseller, 
etc. He set his teeth hard, and flung them one by one into 
the fire. 

The sixth was different — a gossiping letter from an artist 
friend. He took it up with sullen indifference, but soon 
he became absorbed heart and soul. 

*' There is little news," wrote his friend. " The city is 
quiet. The festive season drags on slowly enough. The 
one event of interest in our circle is the return of your old 
flame, the brilliant Leonie. I met them — Mr. and Mrs. 
Rutherford — last night, at the Lessom's, and she was too 
beautiful and too magnificent to tell. Some one spoke of 
you — mentioned ycu had gone heiress-hunting to the Hub, 
now that Uncle Wyider had failed you, and said we might 
look for a Mrs. Bartram — a three-bullion heiress— upon 
your return. You should have seen little Leonie's inso- 
lent smile, the triumphant light in her eyes, as she slowly 
iisped : 

* I think not! The greatest heiress in the United 
States could not tempt Alwyn Bartram now ! Poor 
fellow! the loss of his fortune was a sad blow. I suppose 
he is trying to conquer trouble by hard work. ' 

** Confound the impertinent little monkey! It would 
have done me good to shake her there and then. Every 
one laughed — every one knew what she meant. By Jove! 
Bartram, it's a thousand pities you can't hunt up a Boston 



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152 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



hoiresS; and fetoh her back Mrs. A. B. It would be glori- 
ous revenge on the heartless little De Montreuil." 

Alwyn Bar tram read no more. His face had turned white 
and rigid with suppressed passion, his black eyes glowed 
like coals of lire. A moment he sat, h>s teeth locked, ^iia 
hands clinched in a paroxysm of rage not the less deep 
and deadly because still. Then he started to his feet. 

^^Itvill!** he hissed — literally hissed. "It is not to* 
late yet for revenge!'' 

In another minute ho stood knocking at Helen Mallory's 
door. She opened it herself, pale and worn-looking, still 
wearing her loose morning-robe. Only the shadowy fire- 
light lighted her room; she could hardly see her visitor's 
face. 

** Helen," he said, in a voice strangely hard and cold, *' I 
have been thinking over what you said to me last evening. 
I have changed my mind. I am going to ask Estella to 
be my wife." 

"Alwyn!" 

She could just gasp the name — no more. 

** She is in the drawing-room, no doubt. I hear the 

Eiano. I have your best wishes, have I not? If I can win 
er consent, I will marry her before the New Year begins." 

Estella sat alone at the piano, playing and singing softly, 
in the December dusk. The light of the rising moon 
streamed in white and chill, and lay in squares of luster 
upon the carpet and upon her ringeleted head. 

She was dressed for dinner — in bright rose-hued merino, 
with ribbons fluttering and jewels sparkling about her, and 
her song was a plaintive little love chant: 

" Soft and low I breathe my passion." 

The door opened hastily; some one strode quickly in. 

She looked up, thankful that the wintery twilight hid her 
flushing face, her heart beginning to throb as it always 
throbbed when the hero of her life came. 

A moment and he was bending above her <]s he had never 
bent before. 

** Go on, Essie," he said; '* finish your song." 

*' It is finished. I hardly knew 1 was singing- I was 
only trying to pass the interval between dressijig and din- 



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estella's husband. 



153 



ner. It is dinner-time, is it not? And Aunt Helen — has 
she sent you for me?" 

** Aunt Helen is not coming down, I think. I saw her 
a moment ago at the door of her room, and she was not 
dressed. I am afraid she is ill.'' 

**111!'' Estella roso up in quick alarm. ** Oh, Mr. 
Bartram, what is it? You know the doctor said — Oh, I 
must go to her at once!" 

He laid his hand upon her shoulder, and gently held her 
back. 

** One instant, Essie— only one, and you shall. She is 
waiting for you. She knows why I have come here. She 
knows I have come to ask you to be my wife I" 



CHAPTER XVII. 

A WEIRD WEDDING. 

The murder was out — blurted abruptly enough. The 
words were plain. Heaven knows, but the girl stood like 
one who does not understand, staring with wild, brown 
eyes. 

'* Do you hear me, Essie? To ask you to be my wifel 
I have Aunt Helen's best wishes and consent. Have I also 
yours?" 

The words were very gentle, the voice low and soft, but 
underneath there was a hard intonation, a cold, metallic 
ring. 

In the moment of asking, he despised himself. It was 
the first mean and cowardly action of his life. 

** Speak, Estella," he said, impatiently — ** speak and 
tell me! Will you marry me? Will you be my wife?" 

" Your wife?" 

She gasi)ed the words. Then she stopped. A flood of 
celestial bliss seemed suddenly to fill her heart. Oh, was 
she dreaming, or did earth hold such rapture for her? 

** My wife, Essie — mine, your whole life long! I will do 
my best to make you happy. You shall never regret it, if 
it is in my power. I am not a good man, but I will do 
my best, by and by, to become worthy my dear little bride. 
Essie, Essie! is it to be yes or no?" 

He bent above her; he tried to see her face. The mo» 
mentary excitement of love-making, like the excitement of 



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estella's husband. 



gambling or horse-raoing, had carried him away for th« 
time being, and he was really in earnest. 

He wanted EstelU to say yes now. But Estella had 
covered her face \, 1th both hands, and sat trembling from 
head to foot. 

"Estella! Estella!" he exclaimed, bitterly, ** you tool 
And 1 thought you cared for me a little.'' 

At that cry, selfish and empty as it was, her hands 
dropped. She lifted one of his, and kissed it passionately. 

" 1 love you with all my heart," she said, with something 
that was almost a sob. ** 1 have loved you from the first 
Oh, Alwyn, do you mean it? Can you care for me?" 

** Very much, my dear little girl," he answered, with 
the sharpest pang of humiliation and self-reproach he had 
ever felt in his life. " It is not so difficult a matter. And 
you will really be my wife?" 

"If you wish it." 

He drew her to him, and kissed the white, pure brow 
with remorseful tenderness. 

" I wish it more than anything else on earth just now. 
And so you really love me, my poor little Essie? 

** With my whole heart." 

He held her in silence, his own heart full of passionate 
bitterness and remorse. What a wretch he was — what a 
mean, despicable wretch — in his own eyes! 

The girl s happ^ face lay hidden on his shoulder — the 
face of this girl who loved him — where so often the false, 
beautiful face of Leonie had lain. 

" Cheat and hypocrite that I am!" he thought; ** and 
this poor child really loved me from the first! It must 
atone — it shall atone! I will devote my life to her! I will 
make her happy if I can!" 

He lifted the drooping face, all rosy with blushes, and 
looked at it. Even in the dusk he could see it radiant — 
glorified with new-born bliss, rosy with luminous light 

" My pretty little Essie! my bright little fireside fairy! 
And when is it to be?" 

" What ?" in the shyest of happy whispers. 

"Our wedding-day." 

She gave a little hysterical laugh, and the roseate face 
hid itself again. 

" I— 1 don't know. Whenever you and Aunt Helen 
like." 



estella's huspand. 



155 



Alwyn Bartram laughed— for the first time, perhaps, 
since Leonie De MontreuiFs wedding-day. 

** You good little girl! it shall be very soon, if it depends 
on me. Why not oefore 1 return to New York, nexl 
month?" 

She did not speak. Literally she could not. The flood- 
tides of bliss were too high; her sudden happiness was too 
great for words. 

** Run away and ask Aunt Helen,'* he said, opening his 
arms and letting her go. " It must be as she says; only 
coax her, Essie, to name an early day." 

She flitted from his embrace — out of the room and up- 
stairs — with winged feet. 

" Oh, in all this wide world,*' thought rapturous sixteen, 
" is there such another happy girl as I?** 

Alwyn Bartram, left alone, leaned moodily against the 
mantel and stared in the fire. He had done it, then. He 
had followed Mrs. Rutherford's br'Uiant example, humbly 
and afar off, and *' bettered himself." 

He had won a wife and an heiress. The harassing duns, 
those barking curs, could be muzzled now, as soon as he 
pleased, and Mrs. Rutherford would see that her victim was 
not quite so much her victim as she thought. His revenge 
was complete; he could pay her back at last in her own 
coin. 

" For she did love me," he said, setting his teeth; ** she 
does love me, as much as it is in that cold, selfish, mer- 
cenary heart of hers to love. She does love me, and she 
shall meet my wife face to face, and every pang she has 
made me endure she shall endure in return threefold!" 

It was the hour of his triumph, and yet — oh, words are 
weak and poor to tell the bitter self-scorn and loathing that 
filled his heart! What a pitiful part he was playing — what 
a pitiful, spiteful part! What a false, deceitful traitor he 
was to those two women — the only two in the wide eartk 
who really cared for him! 

** They love you," his reproachful conscience said, '* and 
see how you ropay their love!" 

He started up and began to pace hurriedly to and fra 
In all the passionate misery of his undisciplined heart he 
had never felt as he felt this moment. 

'* And she loves me," ho thought, bitterly, ** and she 
has told me so. I would be the basest villain on earth to 



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retract now. If it can add one iota to her happiness to be 
my wife, my wife she shall be!" 

A shrill scream answered him. Flying feet came down 
the stairs — the door was flung open. Pale and wild, Es- 
tella stood before him. 

** She is dead!" she cried. ** She is lying on the floor 
like a stone! Ob, Mr. Bartram, cornel" 

She sped away like the wind. The young man followed 
her at once; bv intuition he understood all. 

He followed Ther upstairs to Helen Mallory 's room. Thert 
on the floor lay Helen face downward, white as death, still 
fts death, and almost as cold. 

** Ring for Norah," he said, hurriedly. ** I will go for 
the doctor at once. " 

He lifted the light form and laid it upon the bed. She 
had slipped from her chair, and never moved after she felL 

Estella rang a sharp peal, and then lighted the gas. A 
flood of light fell full upon the marble face. 

"She is not dead,*' Alwyn said, ashen pale himself. 
** It's only a death-like faint. Tell me where Doctor Sin- 
clair lives; I will go directly." 

It was Norah who told him. Estella had fallen upon 
her knees by the bedside in a wild outburst of passionate 
weeping. 

He hurried from the room and house at once, his own 
plans dissolving in thin air before the awful presence of 
death. 

Yes, death! Dr. Sinclair bent above the rigid form, half 
jkXi hour later, with a face of dark, ominous gravity. 

** She will never rise from this bed," he said, solemnly. 
" Ti:is death-like swoon is the beginning of the end. She 
may Jive to see the new year dawn; she will never live be- 
yond it. 1 feared this, but not so terribly soon. I warned 
her, and she knew her fate." 

The physician applied restoratives for a weary while m. 
vain; but the large, sad eyes opened at last, the white lips 
wreathed themselves in the old, gentle smile. 

" What is it?" she asked. ** Am I ill?" 

Their faces answered her. The sound of suppressed sob- 
bing came from the foot of the bed. The soft, dark eyes 
turned tenderly upon Estella. 

** It has come very soon," she whispered to the doctor. 



ESTELLA S HUSBAND. 



167 



with her mournful smile — ** sooner than we thought, my 
old friend. How long before the end?'* 

" My dear Miss Mallory — *' 

'* Tell me the truth, Doctor Sinclair, if you are my 
friend I J can bear it, and 1 most know. How many days 
—how many hours?" 

'* You will live to see the new year, I hope." 

" So long? That is well. 1 will have the desire of my 
heart, then, before I go. Alwyn,*' she held out her hand 
feebly, her smile at its brightest, '* the last thing I remem- 
ber is something very pleaspnt — something you told me — 
something I have longed ardently to hear. Surely it was 
not a droam?'^ 

He kissed the slender hand with eyes that grew diu. 

** It was no dream, dearest Helen. Estella will be my 
wife.'' 

" i am so glad — so glad! I can die in peace now, Al- 
wyn. Oh, my boy! she did love you, did she not?" 

" She is an angel, and 1 am — " He stopped short. 
*' But 1 will become worthy of her — she shall bo liappy. I 
Bwear it by your dying bed, Helen!" he cried, with sudden 
passion. 

That oath! Could he have seen the future — could he 
have known how awfully it was destined to be broken — 
how terribly it would haunt him in the days to come! 
That impetuous oath! And, if he had loved her, what 
need to swear at all? 

** I can die happy," Helen murmured. ** My darling 
will no longer be friendless and alone. And before I go, 
Alwyn, I must see hei your wife. By my death-bed she 
shall become yours forever. I will have nothing left on 
•arth to wish for then. " 

*' Miss Mallory is talking too much," Dr. Sinclair said, 
sharply. " I can't allow it. She must drink this, and go 
to F)eep." 

He had not heard a word — neither had Estella. The 
young man retreated as the physician advanced, cup in 
nand. 

** You will sleep after this. Don't excite yourself — 
don't talk. 1 will not be answerable for the consequences. " 

She took it like a child, and closed her eyes, with a 
iMig, satisfied sigh. 



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** I am tired/' she said. " I will sleep. Tell Estella 
to sit by me until 1 awake/' 

And then the brown eyes closed, and, with her darling's 
hand in hers, she driftoJ away into dreamland. 

No one went to bi d that night. Through its long, cold 
hours, they sat beside her — Estella and Norah — and Al- 
wyu Bartram paced the corridor outside, lie could never 
retract now — the half-formed resolution he had made down- 
stairs to draw back from this loveless marriage could never 
be carried out. It was too late. Estella loved him, and 
hi«d told him so. He would bo a villain, indeed, to tell her 
the truth after that. And the glad light in Helen's dy- 
ing eyes! No; it was too late — too late! 

What Alwyn Bartram suffered that night, in his self- 
scorn and humiliation, was known only to Heaven and 
himself. 

Morning came — Christmas-day, with brightest sunshine 
and clajging bells. But the jubilant sunshine was shut 
out of that sick-room, and, in its dusky light, the face of 
the sick woman looked hardly whiter than that of the pale 
girl who bent above her. 

*' You must go to bed, Essie," Mr. Bartram said, au- 
thoritatively, coming in, *' or we will have two patients be- 
fore the day ends. You are as white as the snow-drifts 
outside." 

The wonderful brown eyes lifted themselves to his face 
with a look of inexpressible love. How sweet it was to be 
cared for by him! She rose at once to go. 

' * And I have been talking to her for the last two hours 
to go to bed, and all in vain," grumbled Norah; *' and one 
word from him does it. Drat the men! He's got her be- 
witched, like all the rest." 

Mr. Birtram swallowed a cup of coffee, snatched a couple 
of hours sleep, had his morning walk and smoke, and went 
on with his painting. He was no use in the sick-room, and 
he must work to drown reflection. 

** ' Men must work, and women must weep,' " he said 
to himself as he took up his brush. '* 1 thought the race 
of women who weep was extinct until I came here. Poor 
Helen, and poor Estella! How will it all end, I wonder?" 

How, indeed? Could he only have foreseen! But that 
merciful veil that shrouds the future was down, and h© 
went on blindfold to his fate. 



!;f 



E8TELLA S HU8KAND. 



159 



Later, that day. Miss Mallory sent for her lavryer, and 
made her will. All went to Alwyn Bar tram. Estella 
would have it so when stie was consulted. 

" Let it till bo his, dear Aunt Helen," she said, hiding 
her happy face in the pillow — ** let me owe everything to 
him. Oh, what is the wealth of the world in comparison 
to his love?'' 

And so the will was made, and signed, and sealed. The 
lawyer departed, taking it with him, and aunt and niec« 
were alone in the Christmas twilight. 

*' And you are happy at last, my Essie?" the elder lady 
said, fondly caressing her beloved one's hand. '* Thank 
Heaven for that!" 

*' Too happy for words to tell," Estella answered, almost 
with a sob. *' I never thought he could care for me. It 
seems wicked and heartless to be happy now, but, ohi 
Aunt Helen, I love him so dearly — so dearly I" 

" Thank Heaven!" Aunt Helen repeated; '*beashappy 
as you can, my darling; shed no tears for me. Ab! my 
life has been loveless and lonely — 1 am not sorry to go. 
But, Essie, what of the past — your father — your — 1 mean 
Eoysten Darrell? Shall we tell him all?" 

" Whatever you please. Aunt Helen." 

There was a pause. 

*' Tht.. 1 think not," Helen Mallory said. " I shrink 
from repeating the troubles of your life, and 1 know how 
acutely sensitive he is. And why need he know? The 
Count de Montreuil is nothing to you — never need be now. 
He and Alwyn Bartram's wife may meet face to face in the 
future, and never know each other. Let him and his 
wealth go — that wealth which broke your poor mother's 
heart, and left her to die in misery and loneliness. And 
for Roysten Darrell, he is dead, and will never trouble you 
more. To Peter Fisher 1 will send a sum sufficient to sat- 
isfy him and silence him forever. Let by-gones be by-gones 
— Alwyn will be none the happier for knowing the miseries 
of your past life. If in the future you feel inclined to tell 
him yourself, do so; but my hours on earth are numbered. 
I want to pass them in peace — I can't go over the old 
ground. Unless he asks for your past life, we will bury it 
in oblivion. " 

" Whatever you like," Estella said, submissiyely; ** you 
know best." 



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ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



And SO, with fatal sophistry, the past was hidden, and 
the story which, if told, might have saved them so many 
years of sorrow and parting was not told to Alwyn liar- 
tram. 

The days of that Christmas week went by, each one 
bringing the fatal end nearer and nearer. There was no 
time for love-making now; the awful presence of death 
filled every room in the house, darkened the very air. 
Helen Mallory was dying — they counted her life by hours 
now, not by days. 

** You will marry Estella on New Year's-eve, Alwyn?" 
she said, wearily. ** I am going with the old year. I can 
hardly hope for more than to see the new year dawn, and 
I can not die until my darling is your wife.'* 

** Whenever you please, Helen," the young man an- 
swered, very gravely. ** The sooner the better — since it 
must be," was his silent conclusion, with a groan. 

Estella *s preparations were few — there was no time, and 
less inclination, this mournful Christmas week. And yet 
she was happy, unutterably happy, though the aunt she 
loved lay dymg. The stronger love conquered the weaker 
— her heart was full of inexpressible bliss, despite the ter- 
rible shadow of Death. 

It came — New Year's-eve — Estella's wedding-day. Her 
second wedding-day — she remembered that with a sharp 
pang of terror and remorse. 

** I wish Aunt Helen had told him," she thought. 
'* What would he say if he knew of Roysten Darrell?" 

The day dawned dull and leaden — no glimmer of sun- 
shine in sky or earth. A wailing wind sobbed round the 
gables, and drove the snow in wild drifts before it. 

As the afternoon wore on, the threatening rain began lo 
fall, freezing as it fell, anl lashing the windows in slee. 
and hail. A bad, black day, cold and tempestuous, dark 
and dreary. The dying woman shuddered as she listened 
to the raging of the storm. 

'* And I had hoped for sunshine and brightness on this 
last day," she thought, trying to shut out the eerie cries of 
the winter wind — '* my darling's wedding-day. What if 
it should be omnious? What if it should be prophetic of 
the future, after all?" 

She turned suddenly, and looked trM at the bridegroom. 
He sat beside her, alone, looking very little like a bride' 



JSTELLa'8 HUSTlANn. 



Ibl 



groom, his dark face set, and stern, and smilelebs as the 
January sky without. 

** Oh, Alwyn, toll me!'* she cried, in shrill affright, 
** you do love Estolla, do you not? You will cherish and 
protect her when I am gone?" 

Alwyn Bartram's pule face turned a shade paler. 

** If 1 can,'* he slowly said. *' Truly and faithfully; 
Helen, 1 promise you to do my best to make her happy. 
Rest in peace; 1 will keep my marriage vow.** 

*' She is so friendless, so utterly alone. Oh, my poor 
little Essie! She will have no one in the wide ';oHd but 
you. And she loves you, Alwyn; no one on this earth will 
ever love you as well. ** 

No, surely not. To be twice loved so passionately, so 
unselfishly, rarely falls to the lot of one life- time. 

Up in her room the bride was dressing for her second 
bridal — this bride of sixteen — with Norah standing by to 
assist. But the simple toilet was easily made, and the de- 
mands upon Norah were few. Very sullen and overcast 
looked the face of Helen Mallory*s old servant. To her 
this hasty marriage was the maddest of all mad acts. 

" He doesn't care for her,** Norah said to herself. 
*' Pretty as she is, and good as she is, he doesn't care for 
her. What, then, is he marrying her for?** 

Very pretty Eatella looked to-night — very pretty, very 
pale. Her gauzy robe floated pure and white around her; 
a pearl necklace encircled the slender throat; a white rose 
nestled among the brown curls — and that was all. No 
costly veil, no orange-blossoms, no train of bride-maids; 
jind few brides ever looked fairer, sweeter, purer, on their 
bridal night. 

•' Will I do, Norah?*' 

She turned from the glass, a faint smile lighting her pale 
face — fair as a lily. 

'* You might do for a king. Miss Essie, let *vlone a pen- 
niless painter,** Norah answert*!, brusquely. ** You re a 
million times too good for that black-a-vised ^oung man. 
Why you and Miss Helen come *o set such sto>e by him, I 
don't see. I never took to him . nd 1 never w* I. There!** 

*' Norah!** utter horror in Eace and eyes at this h\^^ 
phemy. 

'* I don*t care!** said Norah, folding her arms. ** ItV 
the truth, and I should burst if 1 didn't tell it 1 don*t 





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estella's husband. 



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believe in this marriage, done up in a hurry, and I donH 
believe in him f There! it's after ten; if you're ready, 
*Jome down. " 

She opened the door and flung out in a temper. On 
^he landing stood the bridegroom waiting, pale as the bride 
herself. 

'* Is she ready?" he asked. ** Miss Mallory grows im- 
patient, and the clergyman is down-stairs." 

Estella answered for herself. She came forward, lio: 
heart throbbing so fast and hard that she felt half suifo- 
cated. Scarcely looking at her, he drew her hand through 
his arm, and led her down. 

** We must not excite her, and she is in a fever of impa- 
tience already," was all he said by the way. 

In the sick-room, the doctor, the clergyman, the lawyer 
and Norah stood. The dying woman sat propped up with 
pillows, a feverish fire in her eyes. The room was di'nly 
lighted by one shaded lamp, and the uproar of the storm 
Bounded awfully loud without. A solemn scene and a sol- 
emn hour; a weird wedding at dead of night, in that raging 
tempest and by a death-bed. 

Tne clergyman opened his book. Side by side they 
stood, those two — both deathly pale — both hearts full of iiwe 
unutterable, and Death stood in their midst. For the sec- 
ond time, Estella heard the mystic words of that solemn 
service. Once again in night and storm she was a bride. 

It was over. She was Alwyn Bartram's wedded wife! 
With a great cry she flung herself upon the breast of the 
dying woman, and broke out into a passion of hysterical 
weeping. Helen Mallory strained her to her bosom in s 
wild grasp, the livid hue of death stealing over her face. 

" This will never do," Dr. Sinclair said, decidedly. '* If 
vour niece can not restrain herself. Miss Mallory, she must 
leave the room." 

But Helen only held her the closer. 

** "JN'ever again!" she whispered, with a radiant smile. 
** Oh, my dearest, never again, until we part forever!" 

They were almost her last words — the ebbing life was al- 
most gone — dying truly with the old year. An awful hush 
fell upon them all. The moments wore on, the wind rose 
and fell, the sleet and hail beat against the glass, midnight 
drew near. With the first chime of the new year's bells the 
smile froze upon her face; with her head upon the bride's 



JfA 



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estella's husband. 



168 



a I don't 
re ready, 

per. On 
the bride 



Trows im- 



ward, iio: 
alf suiio- 
i through 

r of impa- 

the lawyer 
)d up with 
was di'nly 
the storm 
and a sol- 
hat raging 

side they 
full of awe 
ir the sec- 
at solemn 
a bride, 
tided wife! 
ast of the 
hysterical 
)som in a 
ler face, 
lly. '' If 
she must 



int smile. 
3ver!" 
Ife was al- 
Ivvfulhush 
Iwind rose 
] midnight 
1 bells the 
le bride's 



breast, the gentle eyes closed, the new day and the new 
year that dawned upon Estella a bride dawned upon Helen 
Mallory a corpse. 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

A DREARY HONEY-MOON. 

It was a very lengthy procession of carriages that fol- 
lowed Helen Mallory, three days later, to Mount Auburn. 

She had died with few around her bedside. She had lived 
ft lonely and secluded life, but all the old friends who had 
known her, and known her father and mother, assembled 
to see her laid in the grave. 

Perhaps, too, curiosity had something to do with it. 
The news of the extraordinary marriage by her death-bed 
had circulated, and people wanted to see this romantically 
wedded bride and groom. 

So the dull old house filled on the funeral day, and Mr. 
and Mrs. Alwyn Bartram were stared at to their hearts' 
content. 

Mrs. x^lwyn Bartram ! Yes, she was that now — the one 
name of all others on earth she had most desired to bear! 

Poor little lonely bride! Pitifully small, and pale, and 
thin she looked in her deep mourning, all her bright hair 
brushed away, her eyes dull and sunken with incessant 
weeping. She had never known how dearly she loved this 
indulgent relative — this gentle Aunt Helen — until she was 
lost forever. 

And the girlish tears that would almost have been bliss- 
ful had they fallen upon Alwyn Bartram's breast fell slow- 
ly and wretchedly upon that clay-cold bosom or Norah's 
faithful shoulder. 

For Mr. Bartram was very busy, of course. All devolved 
upon him, and he went about those three days with a face 
01 such dark gravity, not to say gloom, that his poor little 
bride quite trembled in the presence of her idol. 

" Did he love Aunt Helen so much, or did he love me so 
little?" she thought, with a sharp pang of doubt and dread. 
" He looks so unhappy, and I am afraid to speak to him 
— 1, who am his wire now, and who love him so dearly." 

His wife! Oh, magic words! They thrilled througli 
the hearts of this lovesick little girl like the mnoc of 
heaven. 



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164 



estella's husband. 



'* He will think of nie — he will love me — by and by,** 
she thought, rapturously. " How can I expect him to 
love me as 1 love him — he so noble, so handsome, so tal- 
ented, so far above me every way? And 1 am to pass my 
whole life by his side! My love, my darling, my hus- 
band /" 

But these exalted fits would go, and moods of darkest 
despondency follow. Mr. Bartram wrapped himself in 
gloom as in a mantle, and, had he been anything less than 
a hero, might have been suspected of a tendency to sulki- 
ness. 

Ab it was, he grew in romantic Essie's eyes more like 
Conrad, the Corsair, every day, and she began to think 
Medora's life must have been one of the dreariest at times, 
sitting at her black-browed lord's feet, essaying in vain to 
win one fleeting smile. 

The funeral day was dark and raw, with a piercing east- 
erly wind, and a flutter of snowflakes in the leaden air. 

Shivering in her crape and sables, Mrs. Alwyn Bartram 
leaned upon her husband's arm, crying wretchedly behind 
her veil, while the sods rittled down and the solemn words 
of the burial service sounded in her ears. 

Dark and stern as doom her new-made husband stood 
beside her, his gloomy eyes fixed upon the grave — grown 
strangely worn and haggard since the memorable Christ- 
mas-eve. 

It was all over — the carriages were rattling homeward 
chrough the chill, leaden dusk. He sat beside his bride, 
she still weeping incessantly, and not improving her pretty 
looks by the process. 

Between tlie cold and the tears, Estella's nose was red 
and swollen, her bright eyes dim and sunken, her cheeks 
white to ghastliness. The sensitive eyes of the artist saw 
all this amid the trouble of greater things. 

"Audi thought her pretty!" the fancy flashed upon 
him through all his gloom. ** Poor little babyish Essie! 
How they will criticise Alwyn Bartram's bread-and-but- 
ter bride in New York!" 

And then, athwart the blackening gloaming, flashed the 
radiant face of lovely Leonie De Montreuil — that faultless 
face, that peerless form, those perfect maouers. 

Contrasts are good, but not such contrasts as these. He 
ground his teeth, and for the moment was base enough and 



estella's husband. 



165 



cruel enough to hate his unhicky little bride as well as 
himself. 

** Fool that I was to sell myself to spite a cold-blooded 
jilt!'' he thought — " to insure the misery of my own future 
life and that of this weak-witted girll'^ 

It was a very dreary drive. He made no attempt to dry 
the falling tears of his companion. She had the luxury of 
a long and wretched cry. No one could have despised him 
more thoroughly than he despised himself. In all wide 
America there were few more miserable men, this dull 
January evening, than Estella's husband. 

He left his bride at home, and wended his way to the 
lawyer's ofiBce. Dark, and silent, and dreary as a tomb 
was Helen Mallory's old home — the silence of death reign- 
ing in every room. 

Estella had cried until she could cry no longer. She 
toiled wearily up the long stairway now to her own room, 
and sunk down on her knees by the bedside, her poor, pale 
face hidden in the clothes. 

** He does not love me," she thought, in dull despair. 
*' He never loved me! Oh, why did he ask me to marry 
him? Why can 1 not die and leave him free?*' 

The night darkened down; she never stirred. She lay 
there, forlorn and miserable, not caring if she ever rose 
again. What was the world and all it contained, since the 
idol of her life was lost? 

It was Norah who found her out, and tried to comfort 
her some hours after. He whose place was by her side 
was absorbed in other things, and it was the faithful arms 
of the old servant that drew her close to her heart. 

** Don't cry for him, Miss Essie!" Norah said, in tones 
of concentrated scorn. " He isn't worth one tear. I al- 
ways thought it; I'm sure of it now." 

Estella lifted her head suddenly, and the brown eyes 
quite flashed. 

" Hush, Norah! Not one word against him in my hear- 
ing. He is my husband, and I love him!" 

Norah snorted disdainfully. 

** Of course you do, and he's begin ing to break your 
heart in time. Most men wait until the honey-moon is over 
to do that. Mr. Alwyn Bartram seems to be in a little 
more hurry than the rest. Oh," cried Norah, with a vi* 



?•.' ' 




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Im 



raff' II 



I 



166 



estella's husband. 



cious glare, ** how I should like to tell him a piece of mt 
mindr 

But strong-minded as Norah undoubtedly was, she was 
not strong-minded enough for that. When, a little later, 
Mr. Bartram strode in, looking tall, strong, black-browed 
and terrible, she shrunk away from him and descended to 
the kitchen, muttering sot to voce. 

Few would have had the temerity to face the sullen lion 
just then. Ho made straight for the drawing-room, and 
found Estella there awaiting him. 

What a pallid, helpless little shadow she looked in her 
trailing black robes! How mournfully the great brown 
eyes lifted themselves to his face in silent, piteous appeal! 

That look touched even his heart— very hard, just now, 
in its great bitterness. He leaned moodily against the 
mantel and stared in the fire. 

** Estella,'^ he said, abruptly, '* I am going to New York 
to-morrow. " 

There was no reply. The wistful eyes turned upon him 
again, but she looked afraid to speak. 

*' I shall leave you here with Norah for a few weeks,*' 
he went on, hurriedly. '* 1 must take a house and furnish 
it before bringing you there. It is of no use my remain- 
ing here longer, and 1 don't fancy lodging you in a hotel. 
You can remain here quietly with Norah until 1 come for 
you." 

* Yes." 

She said it so faintly so sadly, that he hardly heard it. 
He looked up, but she had shrunk suddenly back, and sat 
holding a hand-screen before her face. 

" You do not mind, do you, Essie? You would rather 
be here with Norah for a few weeks than lonely in a great 
New York hotel .f* I should necessarily have to leave yoi^ 
very much alone — house-hunting and furniture-hunting. 
You would find it horribly dreary there, by yourself, among 
strangers. You would rather remain here, would you 
not?'' 

** Whatever you please." 

Again so faintly that he barely heard it. Her heart was 
full, her voice was choked, but the fanciful little screen hid 
the poor, pale face. 

There was a pause. 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



167 



** Do you know, Estella," he said at last, " that Helen 
Mallory has left her whole fortune to me?" 

**Yes, I know." 

" It should not have been so; I was both surprised and 
sorry. It should have been yours— your separate, inde- 
pendent estate. However, it will make no dill'erence — :i 
need make none; my interests and yours are one now. 
A.nd, Estella, of course, as you know nothing of housekeep- 
ing, 1 must engage some competent person to take all that 
trouble off your shoulders. I know a lady in New York — 
Mrs. Hamilton; she will accept the situation, I think. 
And Norah — what of her? Does she go wi^h us?" 

** 1 think not" 

** Ah, well! it coesn't matter. Mrs. Hamilton is quite 
competent." He drew out his watch. " Half past eight. 
Have you had supper?" 

"No— I could not eat." 

** No more can I. Well, you had better ring for Norah 
to keep vou company this first evening alone. Poor Helen! 
1 am going to my room to pack up, and after, 1 have let- 
ters to write. It will probably be daylight before 1 get 
through. As I leave here at seven, it is not worth my 
while to retire. You can tell Norah my plans, and be 
ready to accompany me to New York when I return for 
you in two or three weeks. Mr. Garl, the lawyer, will 
supply you with whatever money you may want, meantime. 
And as you will probably be asleep when I leave in the 
morning, I had better say good-bye now. Don't distress 
yourself, Essie, and don't be lonely; the days will soon 
pass. Good-night and good-bye!" 

He stooped and kissed her cheek as she sat — such a cold, 
careless kiss — and then he was gone. 

Gone! and Estella was left alone, this first night after 
the burial of her kind friend — alone in the xjilent and dreary 
house. 

She slipped out of her chair, down on her knees, her face 
hidden in her hands. 

** Why did he marry me? why did he marry me?" she 
thought. " Oh, Aunt Helen! — dearest, kindest auntie that 
ever lived in this world — he does not love me; he 7iever will 
love me! He goes and leaves me alone already!" 

Estella did not summon Norah. For hours she lay 
there alone with her sorrow. Of all the troubles of the 



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168 



estelm's husband. 



past, tiere had nevei- bten any t^. go to her heart like thii. 
(She loved this mdii with all her passionate, impulsive 
soul, and now tLit he was hers — her husband — he was 
further off, more utterly lost, than ever. 

She arose at last — it was very late, and growing cold — 
and staggered upsu'^irs to her room. She had to pass his 
on her way, and involuntarily her footsteps stopped, and 
her heart seemed to pause in its beating. 

She could see the shining of the light beneath the door; 
she could hear him moving to and fro, gathering together 
his belongings for departure. He needed no help of hers. 
She turned suddenly away, and passed into her own room. 

Mr. Bartram departed very early next morning, without 
waiting to see any one. But hidden behind the curtains, 
his wife of a weeli watched him out of sight, with straining, 
yearning, impassioned brown eyes. 

The wheels that bore him from her seemed crushing over 
her heart— she sat down on the bedside, pale and breath- 
less when their last roll was heard, her hand pressed hard 
over her breast, as though to still the intolerable pain 
there. 

** Will I ever see him again?" she thought, drearily. 
" Has he gone forever, and left me here to drag out my 
weary life? Will he really — really come back, as he said? 
and, oh, if this be my honey-moon, what is my whole wed- 
ded life likely to be?" 

She had not slept all night — she was too heartsick and 
wretched to sleep now. She dressed herself with listless 
indi£ference, and descended to breakfast, with cheeks 
whiter than the new year's snow piled high outside, and 
hollow, lack-luster eyes. 

Norah looked at her with indignant face. 

'* 1 thought so! You've gone and kept awake all night. 
Miss Essie, fidgeting and worrying yourself and other 
people into their graves. You look like your own ghost 
this morning!" 

*' Do 1?" with a tired sigh. *' What does it matter, 
Norah, how 1 look? There's no one to care." 

'* Isn't there? /'wi no one, 1 suppose, and you're no one 
yourself; but the man that's married you, he's somebody, 
surely, and he cares. Why doesn't he come down to 
breakfast?" 

*' Because he has gone.' 



>f 



estella's husband. 



169 



** OonCi Gene where?" 

**Bacȣ to Kew York." 

Her eye?, filled as she said it. She turned away, but 
not until she caught the indignant red mounting to 
rforah's brow. 

*' Gone back to New York, and left you here — his bride! 
What do you nriean, Miss Essie?" 

" Don't blame him, Norah — don't be angry — he could 
not help it. He wishes to take a house and furnish it, 
before bringing me on, and he thought 1 would prefer 
remaining here with you to being aloi<e in a hotel. So 
I would, too " — the last words by a brave effort; *' and he 
wishes to engage a housekeeper, and all that. He is very 
good and thoughtful, Norah, and he knows best; and you 
mustn't — you mustn't be angry with him if you love me.'* 

She threw her arms round grim Norah's neck, and 
kissed her coaxingly. And Norah, by a mighty effort, 
swalIo"yed her just wrath, kissed back, and began busying- 
herself among the breakfast things. 

** And when is he coming back, pray?" she inquired 
at length, when she had sufficiently mastered her feelings. 

" In a few weeks — as soon as ever he can. I am to be all 
ready to accompany him; and you, too, Norah, if you will 
go." 

** Thank you very much. Miss Essie! but I have my 
own plans, and mean to stick to 'em. I'll go with no 
man; 1 wouldn't trust one of them as far as 1 could see 
him. \rhen you go, I shall leave this place and set up a 
little business for myself. I will have a house of my own, 
and be master and mistress all my life, and if ever you 
get tired of New York, or your handsome husband or his 
fine friends, come to me, and you will always be sure of a 
welcome and shelter; and that day will come before long," 
muttered Norah, prophetically, as she flounced out of the 
room. 

The days went very slowly at Chelsea. Estella wisely 
kept busy, preparing her wardrobe, packing her pet books 
and pictures, practicing assiduously, studying hard, and 
doing her best, poor child, to stave off thought. 

But the January days dragged dismally their slow length 
along. Mr. Bartram had written once — a brief note — say- 
ing he had arrived safely, and had taken a house, and en- 
gaged a housekeeper. It was very brief and scant, begin- 





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170 



estella's husband. 



it 



nmg " My Dear Estella/' and ending *' Very afiEectionately 
yours *' — very scant and business-like, and Estella's heart 
sunk as she read it. 

** If he had only once called mo his wife!" she mur- 
mured, sadly. "But he wants to forget that, if he can. 
Ah, if 1 were only beautiful, and talented, and aocom- 

{)lished, how I would try to compel him to love me I But 
ittle, and ignorant, and plain, and silent, as I am, what 
is the use?" 

»JanL "v p; 3d — February came. Estella's honey-moon 
was ovt. ." ; e moved about, the pallid shadow of herself 
— thin, o-hrk:,- fair and frail as a spirit. 

She nevtA coLHined; she rarely spoke of him now. 
But in her heart theie was but one thought, in her dreams 
one image. 

The sweet, young face took a more patient tenderness — 
the soft, brown eyes a sadder beauty than of old. 

And sitting, playing softly to herself in the lonely winter 
gloamings, her heart chanted unconsciously poor Mari- 
ana's mournful refrain: 

" She only said, ' My life is dreary. 
He Cometh not,' she said. 
She sighed, ' I am aweary, aweary; 
I would that I were dead!' " 



CHAPTER XIX. 

MRS. RUTHERFORD REPENTS. 

The theater was crowded; the play was " Hamlet;" the 
star of the evening Edwin Booth. Everybody was there 
and diamonds flashed, and bright eyes outshone them, and 
fans fluttered, and perfumes filled the air, and Vanity Fair 
mustered strong to do honor to the melancholy Prince of 
Denmark. 

The first act was half over, when a sensation ran through 
one part of Lhe house — that part nearest the stage. 

A little group — two ladies and a gentleman — entered 
their box, and a fire of lorgnettes was instantly leveled in 
that direction. It was Mr. and Mrs. Kutherford, and 
their friend Mrs. Manners. 

" The little Kutherford is radiant as the goddess Hebe," 
one of the group of fashionably got-up young men ob- 
served, with a drawl. " She outdoes herself to-night" 



estella's husband. 



171 



Y 



n 



Matrimony, and Rutherford's bank-checks agree with 
her/' a second said, with a shrug. '' {She reigns en pi in- 
ccsae in the miiliaiiuiro'a up-town p:ilii,oe. By Jove! s. . ia 
beautiful, though. There is nothing like her i. the 
house/' 

*' I saw Bartram this afternoon,*' observed a third, " and 
remarkably well 1 thou;;ht the beggar looking. He's re- 
covered, I fancy. Men have died and worms have eaten 
them, you know, ' but not for love.' " 

*' Ho was badly hipped, though. I saw him the wed- 
ding-morning, half hidden behind a pillar, glowering like 
grim death. It reminded one of those Venetian pictures, 
all pillars, and gondolas, and c^ A.t,*^s out of doors, with 
two lovers billing and cooing in tbt ^'o. ground, and a bravo 
in the rear, with cloak, and da^*: ., •% u.id cocked hat. But 
we don't do that sort of thin^, .o.adays; we don't break 
our hearts for little dots of fliiij ,3 like Leonie, nor drive 
our stiletto into the lucky mar '^ ribs. Bartram's got over 
it like better men, and the l ;jj : thing you hear, he'll be 
marrying a fortune — Blanche White, for instance, the 
richest girl in New York, and an old worshiper at his 
shrine." 

" How grandly the Parisian princess ignores her bouV' 
geois husband!" the first speaker said, still staring hard at 
the Rutherford box. ** She wears his diamonds, and drives 
his high-stepping ponies, and graces the head of his table, 
and snubs him incontinently. Let's go rouid and pay 
our respects." 

The curtain fell. The three young men arose, and 
made their way to where the beauty of the night sat. 

Radiantly lovely looked Leonie in flashing silk and dia- 
monds, her black eyes like stars, her exquisite face Wi'eathed 
in its most brilliant smile, as she chattered mih. Mrs. 
Manners. 

She turned the glorious light of those Assyrian orbs in 
a flashing glance of welcome upon the three gentlemen 
sauntering in, and old Rutherford, with a portentous frown 
on his rugged brow, retreated before their advance. 

*' Scented, conceited, young puppies!" he thought. 
'* They see hov 9 treats me, and they take the advan- 
tage. Look hr ^he smiles upon them, and 1 — I am no 
more to her tb le dirt under her feet!" 

" I thought you were out of town, monsieur," Leonie 



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172 



estella's husband. 



BaiJy loaning back, and looking brightly up in the face of 
the goutlemna bending over her. '* When did you re- 
turn?" 

** Last night. * Through pleasures and palaces though 
we may roam * we are sure eventually to return to New 
Yor.c. By the bye, another friend of yours has returned, 
Mrs. Rutherford. Look there!*' 

He waved his glass. Leonie raised her own jeweled 
lorgnette, and saw, sitting in the box directly opposite, 
her rejected lover, Alwyn Bartram. By his side sat a tall 
and stately blonde — a handsome girl, and exquisitely 
dressed, whose brightest smiles seemed ail for him. 

** Handsome couple, eh? Dark and fair — he, swart as 
a Spaniard; she, fair as a lily. ' We always return to our 
first loves,* saith the French proverb, and in this case it 
is confirmed. The handsome Blanche was Bartram's 
earliest adoration, before ** — with a sidelong look and 
bow — ** a more brilliant star arose to eclipse her.'* 

Mrs. Rutherford dropped her glass with a laugh. But 
her companion saw a sudden light in her eyes, a sudden 
compression of the small mouth. 

" Don't trouble yourself to pay compliments now, Mr. 
Waldrou — the time is past. Mr. Bartram, like yourself, 
has been out of town, then?" 

"Lost somewhere in the wilds of Massachusetts," her 
companion answered, coolly, *' where an ancient aunt or a 
fairy godmother, or something of that kind, has died re- 
cently and left him a fortune. He wears mourning, you 
perceive. There was another rumor afloat about his hav- 
ing wooed and won a Boston heiress, but that is hardly 
likely, is it? It doesn't look like it; and besides, he could 
hardly go so fast, even in this rapid age." 

" Not in the least likely," Mrs. Rutherford said, coldly. 
'* I scarcely credit the other story, either — about the 
mythical fortune. Men don't lose one, and gain another, 
all in a week or two. Mr. Bartram has friends in Massa- 
chusetts—he has been in the habit of visiting them ever since 
I knew him. " 

" How well Alwyn is looking!" Mrs. Manners whispered, 
maliciously. "Do you see him, Leonie dear? An! he 
and Blanche condescend to see us, and bow. How radiantly 
she smiles upon him — how triumphant she looks! There 
must have been something in the old story, after all, then^ 






kstella's husband. 



17» 



face of 
you re- 

though 

to Neve 
turned y 

[eweled 
pposite, 
it a tall 
uisitely 

n^art as 
I to our 
I case it 
rtram's 
Dk and 

u But 
sudden 

w, Mr. 
)urself, 

"her 
nt or a 
ied re- 
g, you 
s hav- 
hardJy 

could 

joldly. 
It the 
I other, 
[assa- 
Ir since 

)ered, 

i! he 

Jiantly 

iThere 

theO' 



And he — upon my word, dear, he grows handsomer than 
ever." 

Loonie Rutherford ground hor little white teeth. Her 
eyes rested on her husband — fat, fifty, vulvar and sulky 
— then went back to the man she loved. Yes, loved — a 
wedding-ring and the name of Kutherford could not oblit- 
erate that old passion. She loved him, now that of her 
own free will she had jilted him, a thousand times better 
than ever. She hud always been more or less jealoLS of 
the stately blonde, Blanche, and now to see him fitting by 
her side, listening to her lowest word, the recipient of her 
brightest smiles, stung her to the quick. 

*' And she is an heiress," Leonie thought, with a flash- 
ing glance of hatred at her rival, ** and is ready to marry 
him to-morrow, if he asks her. And I love him, and he 
knows it! 1 have all I sold myself for — the glory of the 
world — but is the game worth the candle, after all?" 

The play went on, and the play within the play. Mr. 
Bartram, when Mrs. Rutherford was pointed out to him 
by his fair companion, had bowed across with infinite grace 
and calm, and then went on talking, with one single alter- 
ation of face. 

'* Do men change so easily?" Blanche White thought; 
** or did he really love that little black-eyed doll?" 

** How beautiful Mrs. Rutherford is looking to-night I" 
she said, aloud. ** Her best, I think." 

*' Mrs. Rutherford makes a point of ahvays looking hef 
best, does she not?" he answered, coolly; ** and, as usual, 
surrounded by adorers." 

" While that poor old man scowls in the background," 
laughed Blanche. " If he were not quite so fat, and quite 
so red-faced, it would be really tragical. They say he is 
furiously jealous already, but then old men always are." 

"" And Madame Leonie seems determined he shall have 
substantial cause. How Waldron suns himself in those 
tropical smiles! But see, the curtain ascends, and, after 
all — with reverence be it spoken — Booth is better worth 
watching just now than even the brilliant Leonie." 

'* Ah! is he? Then Mr. Bartram's opinions have under- 
gone a change of late," the young lady could not help 
saying. 

Mr. Bartram ran his fingers through his waving hair with 
the sangfroid of a prince. 



m 



.1! 



•I'j ! 



M !' 



t ' 



»!< A- 






174 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



(( 



\i^^ 



I y. 



Rather— in many rospoots. It is the nature of th« 
animal — man — to change and grow wiser; 1 have done 
both/' 

He turned quietly to the stage, and never once during 
the remainder of the evening did his fair companion eaten 
bis eye wandering to that opposite box. 

He was completely absorbed by herself as though no 
other woman existed in the scheme of the universe. And 
the cheeks of the heiress flushed with pleaduro, and her 
blue eyes shot triumphant glances at the dark fairy across 
the way. 

When all was over, and he drew her arm within his own 
to lead her to her carriage her heart beat hi^h with hope. 

** He was mine until Leonie De Montreud appeared," 
she thought. ** He snail be mine again^ and that before 
long." 

The two streams, descending opposite stairways, met 
face to face in the vestibule. Mr. l^artram, looKing up 
from adjusting Miss White's cloak with solicitous atten- 
tion, met full the great black eyes of Leonie — his lost love. 
At the same instant Mrs. Manners gayly extended her 
hand. 

** Truant," she said, ** we have not seen you for an age. 
Where have you been hiding yourself? Leonie, my dear," 
without waiting for a reply, '* don't you see our old friend, 
Mr. Bartram?' 

** Yes, 1 see him," Leonie answered, quietly, holding 
out her tiny gloved hand, ** and am happy to welcome 
him back to New York." 

Mr. Bartram bowed to both ladies, with a face of change- 
less color. 

** And I am happy to find an opportunity so soon to 
offer my congratulations! 1 wish you every happiness, 
Mrs. Rutherford. Miss Blanche, the crowd is dispersing. 
I think we can find our carriage now. " 

He led her away, but not until Leonie's cavalier, Mr. 
Waldron, caught her passionate, yearning glance. 

" So," he thought, ** sits the wind in that quarter! 
And they used to say she had no heart! By Jove! 1 
wouldn't stand in poor Rutherford's shoes for all his 
thousands. " 

** Hurry!" Leonie said, with a sudden shiver. ** Take 
us out of this, for pity's sake! I am cold." 



mge- 
[d to 

sing. 

Mr. 

Irter! 

i! 1 

his 

'ake 



E8TELLA*8 HUSBAND. 



175 



And so the several lovors liail met &nd parted again, and 
even the jealous luKsbiind, watching with angry old eyes, 
saw nothing in the meeting to stir up his ire. But be- 
neath ! 

Alwyn Bartram wont to his hotel that night — his old, 
luxurious rooms — and paced up and down those gilded 
Apartments for hours, with Hushing eyes and clinched 
teeth, and a heart full of maddening pain. 

He had much better have gone to bed and to sleep 
than worn out his boots and the carpet in that high- 
tragedy style; but a ** haunting shape, an image gay,'' 
danced deliriously before him, and drove him nearly wild 
with jealous rage. 

*' How beautiful she looked! How brightly she smiled 
the old, enchuiiting, irresistible smile I Witch, sorceress, 
siren! heartless, bloodless ilirt! Such won en are only 
born to be the curse of man!" 

There was not one thought of the poor, little, pale girl 
he had married in his heart. It was Leonie's image — 
peerless Leonie — hers alone that haunted him into the 
small hours, and followed him even into his feverish morn- 
ing dreams. 

Mrs. Rutherford drove quietly home beside her husband. 
But she shrunk away into the furthest corner, shivering in 
her ermine wraps, with black eyes that glowed like live 
stars in the dusk. 

Mr. Rutherford sulky as he was (and sulkiness had 
been his normal state since his wedding-day), essayed a 
commonplace or two, but was put down at once by an 
outbreak of passionate impatience: 

** For pity's sake, Mr. Rutherford, let me alone I I'm 
tired to death, and as sleepy as I can be. Don't torment 
me with questions!" 

** You were wide enough awake ten minutes ago," the 
crushed worm ventured to retort, *' and found answers 
enough for that puppy Waldron. It is only when your 
husband talks to you, Mrs. Rutherford, that you are too 
tired and sleepy to reply." 

** When my husband finds anything half as interesting to 
say as Mr. Waldron, I may possibly answer him, too/ the 
lady responded, frigidly. ** Meanwhile, be good eiough 
to let me alone." 

Mrs. Rutherford's maid found her mistress uniifiiuJll 




t\ 






Hi! ( 



;«■ 



r 



l76 



ESTELLA S HUSBAND. 





i ilv, 



fractious and ill-tempered this particular night, and all the 
while she sat under Mile Aglae's hands, the low, dark 
brow was knitted with an expression of intolerable pain. 
Mrs. Rutherford was repenting, and repentance came too 
late. 

When her maid left her, all draped in her loose white 
robe, her rich black hair unbound, she covered that wicked, 
beautiful face of hers with both ringed hands, while slow, 
passionate, wretched tears dropped through the slender 
fingers. 

"Oh, fool, fool, fool that I have been!'^ she thought, 
bitterly. '* Miserable, inconsistent fool! foi loving him as 
I do, as I ever must do, I yet would act as I have acted, 
were the past mine again to-morrow. Wealth and luxury 
are as essential to me as the air 1 breathe. Were 1 his 
wife this moment, and he poor, in spite of all my love 1 
would be miserable. '* 

She arcse, and walked slowly up and down the exquisite 
dressing-room, a picture of beauty in itself. 

"How well he looked! Handsome as a demi-god, and 
all devotion to the insipid Blanche. W ill he do as I have 
done — marry her, I wonder? At least he need never be 
Ashamed of his wife, as I am of that horribly odious old 
man. Has he forgotten me so soon? Has the old passion- 
ate love quite died out? Has he nothing left for Leonie, 
the false, but scorn and contempt? I will know," she 
said, inwardly, setting her teeth. " We will meet in 
society. From his own lips I will hear what he thinks, and 
after — * after that the deluge. ' '* 

Mrs. Rutherford went to bed, and slept the sleep of the 
just, and Mr. Rutherford, the millionaire, might have 
gone for sympathy to Alwyn Bartram's wife, for his im- 
age, in his spouse's dreams, sleeping and waking, was quiio 
as totally ignored. 

But Mrs. Rutherford had made one little mistake — slie 
did not meet her old lover in society. Business had brought 
Mr. Bartram. to New York, and he devoted himself to 
business and the company of his bachelor friends, and 
Vanity Fair saw very little of him. His mourning was 
one excuse; but then he was house-hunting, and had en- 
gaged a housekeeper, and these facts leaked out in spite of 
his grim taciturnity. He was married, bad a mysterious 
wife hidden awav in Boston, ami tbn rumor spread and 



of the 
have 
; im- 

qniio 

-slie 
ought 
Hf to 
and 
was 
en- 
ite of 
rious 
I and 



d 



estella's husband. 



177 



gained ground every day. It reached the ears of Leonie 
Kutherford, aud was the lasL drop added to her already 
overtlovving cup of repentant bitterness. In vain she had 
dressed exquisitely and looked beautiful and gone every- 
where in hope of meeting him. lie was not to be met; and 
driven to desperation, Mrs. Rutherford was guilty of the 
maddest act of her life. She wrote to Mr. Bartram a 
note: 



n 



T 



want to see you. You have letters and pictures of 
mill I of yours. Will you come to-morrow evening at 
eight, and fetch ihem with you. 1 shall be quite alone." 

There was neither date nor signature to this rash epistle. 
It needed none. Mr. Bartram would have known that 
thick, slippery French paper, with its fanciful silver mono- 
gram — that unfaltering, spidery Italian tracery — the wide 
world over. 

He was alone in his room when it came, and his face 
flushed dark red, and his largo, deep eyes glowed like coals 
of fire as he read. His triumph had come. 

** She takes the initiative," he thou/;ht, with that sar- 
donic smile of fierce exultation. " Women never learn to 
wait. You want to weave your old chains, my beautiful 
Leonie— to enslave your old bondman once more; and I am 
to hold out my imbecile hands for the flowery fetters. You 
can't meet me in society, so you step a little out of your 
patrician way, and face me on my own gjround. The sulky 
mountain won't come to Mohammed, so pretty Mohammed 
comes to the mountain. You have heard your slave has 
broken his chains and got married to an heiress, and you 
can't believe it, and you want to learn the truth from head- 

Juarters. Very well, my dear Mrs. Rutherford, you shall, 
will keep your appointment. I will be with you to-mor- 
row night." 

Just ten minutes later than the hour named, Mr. Alwyn 
Bartram rang the door-bell of that stately Fifth Avenue 
mansion, aud was admitted at once by the well-trained 
lackey into the sumptuous drawing-room. Very sumptu- 
ous, indeed; almost barbaric in its splendor of gildisig, of 
painting and color, and a fitting chamber for the lovely 
little lady who sat alone in its vast grandeur. She arose 
and came forward, looking like the Queen of the Fairies, 
in a robe that seemed woven of spun sunbeams, aud with 















178 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



I> h t 



i ) 







liW^' 



sS: I 



it,-,....- 



■f:' ih 



il 



diamond stars blazing in her dead-black hair. Had she 
dressed like this for him? No; Mrs. Kutherford was 
robed for a ball, and waiting had flushed her dark cheeks 
and kindled a streaming fire in her glorious eyes. She was 
moi'e than beautiful — she was dazzling; but if Alwyn Bar- 
tram was dazzled, his fixed and resolute face hid it well. 
She held out her hand with a long, wistful, imploring look 
up in his eyes; but he just touched it with his cold fingers^ 
and let it fall. 

" 1 hope 1 have not kept you waiting, Mrs. Rutherford,'^ 
he said, speaking first. " Eight was the hour, I believe. 
1 must beg your pardon for not returning you property 
sooner, but really 1 have been so occupied of late that it 
quite slipped my memory. I think you will find every- 
thing correct here " — he laid a little parcel on the table — 
** and I hope you will not feel it inconvenient to let me have 
mine. ' 

She looked at him with eyes that flashed. Every cold 
word had stung her vanity to the quick. 

** It is quite convenient, Mr. Bartram. I have them 
ready.*' She swept down the room and lifted a tiny pack- 
age off the piano. "' They should have been restored long 
since, could 1 but have met you. You have turned her- 
mit, I believe, and never go out now?" 

*' By no means, Mrs. Kutherford. I go out a great deal. 
But house-hunting is quite a new Ime of business to me; 
and house-hunting in this city in the month of January 
is rather a formidable process. Besides, 1 have lost a 
friend quite recently, as you may have heard.'' 

*' Ah! Your uncle?" 

"No; Miss Helen Mallory of Boston — a very old and 
very dear friend indeed." 

** And gained a fortune, have you not?" Mrs. Ruther- 
ford asked, carelessly. " Rumor says so, at least. " 

** Rumor is quite correct in this instance. Yes, Miss 
Mallory left me all she possessed. No princely inheritance 
— a mere pittance, 1 dare say, when compared with Mr. 
Rutherford s countless thousands. But then 1 am not am- 
bitious, and it will suffice very well for the humble tastes 
of myself and — my wife." 

*' Your wife?" 

*' Most certainly! Have you not heard I am married, 
Mrs. Rutherford? Surprising! I iancied every one knew 



estella's husband. 



179 



a 



it by this time. The affair was arranged on the quiet — my 
wife was the late Miss Mallory's ward; but I thought it 
was tolerably well-known by now. You see, the excellent 
example of my friends, Mrs. Kutherford, is not altogether 
thrown away upon me, after all. Thanks for the letters; 
we will make a bonfire of our old folly. Permit nie to bid. 
you good-evening — I perceive you are going out. ^' 

She never spoke. Her face had turned of a dead waxen 
whiteness, from brow to chin; her great dark eyes had 
elowly dilated while he talked. She loved him — every 
feature in that colorless face told that. The jilted lover's 
triumph was complete. 

"Good-evening, Mrs. Rutherford!'* he repeated, his 
powerful eyes meeting hers full. *' 1 trust you will njoy 
yourself at the ball. " 

There was no answer; the shock had been too great. With 
a smile upon his face, Alwyn Bartram run down the mar- 
ble steps, and out under the January stars. 

Two hours later, Mrs. Rutherford made her entrance into 
the crowded ball-room, more beautiful, more elegant, more 
brilliant than ever. She outshone herself to-night. She 
laughed, she talked, she flirted, as even she had never done 
before. 

*' And Alwyn Bartram is really married," she said, 
laughingly, as she hung upon Mr. Waldron's arm. *' Lucky 
fellow — and to a Boston heiress! But she — poor thing — 
don't you fancy her honey-moon must be rather of the 
dreariest, spent alone? I shall certainly call upon her, as 
soon as she arrives. 1 am dying of curiosity! She ought 
to be pretty — Alwyn Bartram's wife." 



*i:t^ 



th'y, l\ 



i ' 



Miss 
tance 

Mr. 

am- 
'astes 



'ried, 
knew 



CHAPTER XX. 

MRS. BARTRAM ENTERS SOCIETY. 

The January snows had melted, and the ides of Febru- 
ary had come and nearly gone. The shrill winds whistled 
drearily up and down the dull streets of quiet Chelsea, and 
the tall poplars stood grim and stripped, and rattled their 
dead arms in the cold blast. And Estella Mallory — nay, 
Estella Bartram — had sat, day after day, and night after 
night, alone, and watched the ©erio prospect with hope- 
lessly sorrowful eyes. 



180 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAin). 



1 i 



.\^ 



n 



" Will he never come?" she thought. " Has he gone 
and left me forever? Oh, if he would but write!'' 

For Mr. Bartram, absorbed in his various occupations, 
had found time to write but that first brief note to his neg- 
lected little bride. 

He had no intention of being deliberately unkind to her; 
he only overlooked her. His feelings were all negative 
where Estella was concerned. 

*' And, besides, it is not worth while writing," he said, 
j to himself, ** since I will go for her so shortly now; and we 
i really have nothing to say to each other." 

Mr. Bertram's *' shortly " resolved itself into the close 
of February. It was very near the last of the month, 
when, one chill, starlight evening, he walked up the old 
familiar street, and rung the bell of the silent house. 

How hopelessly stagnant and still everything was! How 
dark and dreary the whole front of the house! 

" Pool little girl!'* he thought, with a twinge of compunc- 
tion; " it is like being shut in a prison. I am sorry I left 
her so long alone." 

Norah opened the door, and stared stonily at the young 
man, no smile of welcome or recognition on her grim face. 

But Mr. Bartram stepped in at once, as into his own 
house, with a cool nod. 

** How are you, Norah? And how is Esttlla? Where 
shall 1 find her?" 

"Your wife is in the drawing-rooii; , Mr« Bartram," 
Norah said, in a voice as acid as her face. '* She ain't 
expectin' you. If you do: '. take care, she^ll think you a 
ghost." 

Mr. Bartram did noi; wai^ he was springing lightly up 
the stairs. 

The drawing-room door was ajar, and, faint, and sweet, 
he could hear Estella singing in the gloaming. Only the 
flickering fire-light filled the room, and the light of the 
solemn stars glimmered through the undrawn curtains. 

The little black figure at the piano looked only a darker 
shadow among the shadows, and her mournful old song 
sounded sadly as the last cadence of a funereal hymn: 

** On the banks of Allan water, 

When brown Autumn spreads its store, 
Btill was seen the miller's daughteii 
Bvis, she smiled no more. 




own 



'here 



ff 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 181 

For the summer griof had brought her. 

And the soldier false was he; 
On the banks of Allan waler 

None so sad as she. ' ' 

Her voice, faltering throughout, died away altogether, 
and her face fell forward in her hands, with a sob. 

Alwyn Bartram, standing in the door- way, never forgot 
:hat lirelit scene — never forgot that pang of sharp re- 
morse with which that shuddering sob fell upon his ears. 

*' rpromised Helen Mallory to love and cherish her," he 
thought; " and see how I keep my word." 

He started forward. At the sound of his footsteps, she 
sprung to her feet — doubt, recognition, delight, in every 
feature. She stood still, incapable of sound or speech. 

" My poor little Essie!" He took her in his arms, with a 
sudden pity that was near akin to love. " My dear little 
girl! my little wife! I have co:i*8 at last!'* 

** At last!" — her head fell forward on his shoulder, with 
an hysterical sob — *' at last! Oh, Alwyn, I thought you 
would never come again!" 

" What! thought so badly of me as that?" the young 
man answered, with a very conscience-stric'ien laugh; 
** thought I had deserted my pretty bride in the heart of 
the honey-moon? No, no! Essie, our parting is over; I 
have come to carry you off from dull Chelsea, as the prince 
cari'ies off the Sleeping Beauty in your pet T^nnysoir's 
poem. Come, let me look at you — lift your fa.'e, Eiisic, 
and let me look at my wife!" 

He raised it up— oh, such an inexpressibly bappy face 
now — and smiled down in the radiant brown eye^;, fall of 
golden glitter. 

** My pretty, pale bride! my :! with the golden «^yes! 
where have your red cheeks g< ..e to? You are as pale 
and wan as a spirit — more like I'ndine than over. By the 
bye, Essie, the ' Undine ' is finished and sent in; we will 
see what the connoisseurs say /6' time. And now, have 
you dined? Because I have i jl, and, to tell the truth, I 
feel hungry." 

** Dinner will be ready directly," Estella answered, 
brightly. " We have had ours — Norah and I. Norah 
always insists upon dinner, whether one feels like dining 
or not." 

"And Norah is very right. 1 ithing; is more conduoive 









182 



esiklla's husband. 



«< 



*( 



to lo^ spirits, and melancholy generally, than short com* 
mons. Is my room ready? I'll run up and change my 
dress; and do you find an appetite, meantime, Mrs. Bar- 
tram, because eating alone I donH admire/' 

*' Your room is always ready," Estellasaid. Then, with 
a sudden impulse, she clasped both her hands around his 
arm, and looked up in her demi-god's face, with shining, 
wonderful eyes. " Oh, Alwyn, 1 am so glad — so glad — so 
glad you have come!*' 

' My dear little Essie, was it so lonely here?" 
Oh, so lonely — so long! And 1 may go with you, 
Alwyn — really, really go? and you will never leave me 
again?" 

*' Never again, you foolish, fond little wife — never again ! 
If I had known you would have missed me so much, I 
would have taken you with me when 1 weri. 1 thought 
you would have been quite contented with l^orah, and your 
piano, and your books.'' 

She looked at him wistf uly, then turned away. He could 
not understand her, and she had no words to say what 
was in hor full heart that throbbed for him under that 
black bodice. 

'* I will be down in half an hour. Tell Norah I am 
particularly sharp set, and not to allow the kitchen to grow 
verdant under her airy treau.^' 

He kissed her and left the room. And when he left her, 
Estella stood, with a face more luminous than a sunlit 
summer sky. Her idol was back — hers forever — talking to 
her, and caressing her, almost as if he loved her. 

'* Oh, :i?y darling!" she whispered, thrilling all over 
with ecstasy J ** I am the happiept creature on earth to- 
night!" 

" Does that young man want anything to eat. Miss 
Essie?" demanded a gruff voice. " Because if he does, 
it'a time 1 had my orders." 

It was Norah, standing in the door-way, and gazing 
with cynical contempt at the girl's radiant countenance. 

Mrs, Bartram came down to earth with a sudden jerk. 

"Is it you, Norah? Oh, yes! 1 was just going to tell 
you. Mr. Bartram has not dined, and is particularly hun- 
gry after his journey ; so, Norah dear, get him something 
nice. He will be down in half an hour. " 

** Ah," said Norah, with a sort of groan, ** I dare say h« 



estella's husband. 



183 



.yb« 



will. Men can forget everything on the earth — their wives 
among the rest— but catch one of 'em forgetting his 
victuals! He must put up with broiled beefsteak anil cold 
apple-tart, Miss Essie; and if he don't lilie that, why thure's 
the restaurant round the corner. Let him go there." 

** Oh, Norah," reproachfully, "send him there? No, 
no! You broil the steak and fry the potatoes and I will 
set the table, and get out the silver and glass, and mar- 
malade, and preserved peaches. He likes nice things, you 
know; andoh, Norah! Norah!" flinging her arms impetu- 
ously around her neck, '* 1 am so happy — so happy, now 
that he has come!" 

*' Greater fool you, then! I never felt more like slam- 
ming the door in any one's face than 1 did in his, this very 
evening. It's no wonder men are what they are; you 

firls spoil them, and get your hearts broke for your pains, 
wish I had my way ; I'd soon take the conceit out of 'em. 
There! that's hugging enough; go and hug Mr. Alwyn 
Bartram, and I'll cook the meat and potatoes. " 

Norah flounced away in a pet, and happy Estella ran to 
the dining-room to light the gas, and spread the cloth, 
and get out the silver, and glass and china, for her lord 
and king. And when that was done she flew up to her 
chamber, to brush out the bright ringlets, and don her best 
dress and jot ornaments. 

" If I only were pretty," she thought, gazing with wist- 
ful eyes at her thin, wan face, '* I think he would learn to 
love me now ! If I only looked like that lovely lady whose 
picture he showed me once, whom he loved then! Where 
IS she, 1 wonder — dead or false? Could any one in the world 
be false to him?" 

Mr. and Mrs. Bartram dined sociably Ute-a-tdte for the 
first time, and Mr. Bartram was dangerously, fatally kind. 
He was not the least in the world in love with his pale girl- 
wife; but he felt tenderly, protectiugly toward her, as he 
might toward some poor, little, wounded bird, that had 
flown to his breast for shelter. 

He was very kind, very communicative. He told her 
all his plans for the future — how hard he was to work, how 
famous be was to grow, what pleasure he would feel in ex- 
hibiting to her all the undreamed of wonders of life in gay 
New York. He told her of their future home, and of her 
housekeeper and companion, Mrs. Hamilton. 



184 



estella's husband. 






IZ -i' 



" For she will be more a companion to you, Essie, than 
an ordinary housekeeper," he said; ** and of course she is 
to be treated as one of the family. They moved in the 
best society once — tlie Hamiltons — and Mrs. H 's man- 
ners are perfect. Any little things connected with etiquette, 
Essie, which you do not know," Mr. I^artram added, with 
some hesitation, '* she will teach you; and, of course, as 
you have never been in society, there are many things and 
observances of which you must necessarily be ignorant. 
However, your mourning will prevent your going out much 
for the next six months, at least, and during that time you 
will continue taking lessons under the most capable mas- 
ters. In our Darby and Joan life we will have time to get 
acquainted, and when Alwyn Bartram presents his friends 
to his wife, he wants to be proud as well as fond of her. " 

Estella's face glowed! Would that blissful day ever come 
— the day on which he would be proud of her? 

**" OhI" she thought, *' how hard 1 will study, how much 
I will try to in^ prove, how patient I will be with triplets 
and cinquepaced passages and nasty French verbs, and his- 
tory and things, to become worthy of him!" 

Mr. Bartram remained but little over a week in Chelsea, 
and then the house was left in charge of Norah. It was to 
be rented as it stood, and when a tenant was found, Norah 
was to vacate. Estella's husband had invited her to ac- 
company them — not very cordially, however — and Norah 
had flatly declined. 

■■ As I told Miss Essie, I never ran after any man's 
heels yet, and I am not going to begin now. You can both 
go, and 1 wish you well, and I hope you'll make the poor 
child happy, I'm sure; but I'll stay in Chelsea, Mr. Bar- 
tram, and take care of myself. " 

She assisted her young mistress to pack, with a stony 
fr.ce that told little whether or no she were sorry for their 
speedy parting; but, at the last, she took her in her strong 
arms with a powerful '^V.p. 

" You're going away with your husband, child, and one 
hair of his head is dearer to you than poor Norah, body 
and soul. You're going to your new home, and your new 
life, and your fine new friends, and you will forget me, very 
likely; but, if the day ever comes " — she paused, and her 
hard, gray eyes looked ominously prophetic — " if the day 
ever comes, Essie, when the new love, and the new life, aup 



estella's husband. 



185 



fy 



)Oth 

)oor 
Jar- 
tony 
Iheir 
jong 

lone 
[ody 
lew 
rery 
J her 
[day 



fine friends fail, then come back to Chelsea— come back 
to Norah, who will love you and pray for you always, and 
give you a warm welcome and the shelter of her roof how- 
ever humble it may bo." 

Estella looked up reproachfull through her tears. 

*' That day will never come, Norah. Have I not my 
husband? That day will never come, but I will not forget 
you. 1 will write to you often, and come to see you next 
summer — may I? And you will answer my letters, will 
you not?" 

*' 1 will answer all you will ever write. Now run, my 
dear; your husband looks impatient to start. Good-bye, 
and God forever bless you!" 

Mr. and Mrs. Bartram departed, and the journey to 
New York was delightful. All that the most devoted hus- 
band could be, Alwyn IJartram was, and shy little Essie 
hung upon his arm, and dared look up in his handsome 
face with adoring brown eyes^ and chat with him almost as 
though she were his equal. 

Bow ditlerent it was from that other terrible journey to 
Chelsea, when she had run away from Fisher's Folly and 
Royaten Darrell! She shuddered as she thought of it, and 
the impulse came strongly over her to tell him all then. If 
she only had! But she looked up in his face and saw that 
tell-tale countenance growing somber under the sudden 
recollection of Leonie, and her faltering courage failed. 

*' Not now," she thought; " he might be angry that I 
did not tell him sooner; and I think one angry look from 
him would kill me. By and by, some evening in the twi- 
light, I will sit at his feet and tell him the whole story of 
the cruel, bitter past. And he viay be pleased when he 
hears 1 am the daughter of a French nobleman, and not 
the nameless, fatherless girl he thinks me." 

The lately-wedded pair reached New York early in the 
chill March morning, and drove through the windy streets 
in a hackney carriage. 

It seemed a very long drive to Estella, and New York 
looked particularly dingy and dismal in the leaden morn- 
ing light. The up-town streets seemed as forlorn and de- 
serted as even Chelsea, and the rows of brown-stone houses 
all as much alike as peas in a pod, bewildered her unaccus- 
tomed eyes. 

' ' How can people tell their own when they come to it?" 




'fm^\ 









IS^^: 




186 



estella's husband. 



she wondered. '* This city may be a rery gay and b/iUiant 
place: but if so, it doesn't do itself justice now.'* 

The hack stopped before one of the browii-stono man- 
sions, and Mr. Bartraui helped her out, and rang a peal 
that speedily brought a sleepy housemaid to the door. 

At the same instant, a tall and stout, and stately h'lly, 
** fair, fat, and lifty,'* at least, opened the dravvi»ig-room 
door, and came forward to welcome the master of tho 
house. She had resolute black eyes and a double chin, 
and a magnificent manner that made poor little Essie, at 
first sight, tremble in her gaiters. 

** 1 am happy to welcome you home, Mr. Bartram," 
said this gorgeous dame, extending o:;e fat, yinged hand — 
" all the happier because you arrive sooner than I dared 
expect. And — Mrs. Bartram, 1 presume?'' 

* Yes— my wife. Estella, my dear, our friend, Mrs. 
Hamilton." 

Mrs. Hamilton courtesied, gave the ringed, fat hand to 
Estella, with a gracious smile, pouring a tiood of welcome 
and congratulation into her bewildered ears. 

** How tired you must be, and how cold, my dear Mrs. 
Bartram! Ah! I know what weary work traveling is. 
But you will find your apartments in order and your maid 
awaiting you, and breakfast — But what time do you desire 
breakfast, Mr. Bartram?" 

" Immediately — as soon as it can be got ready. I'll an- 
swer for traveling being hungry business whatever else it 
may be. Estella, my dear, this way. Let me have the 
pleasure of conducting Mrs. Bartram to her rooms." 

He gave her his arm; she looked tired and pale, and a 
little frightened. 

Mrs. Hamilton gazed after her, with the fat hands folded. 

"Such a little thing!" she thought — '^such a little, 
childish thing! Pale, hollow-eyed, sunken-cheeked, un- 
formed! And after Leonie De Montreuil! No n[ianner — • 
frightened of me ! Not a word to say for herself. And 
that is Alwyn Bartram 's wife! Welf, / will be mistress 
here, not she; that's one comfort." 

The stately widow went down to the basement to give the 
necessary orders for breakfast, and Mr. Bartram led 
Estella up a grand, sweeping stairway, rich in gilding and 
painting, and statuary, along an echoing corridor, and into 
a suite of rooms of suih AL-abian Nights-like gorgeousness. 



estella's husband. 



187 



>9 



the 



ed. 

ttle, 
un- 



the 

led 

nd 

nto 

BBS, 



that she paused on the firsts threshold witli a faiut cry of 
amaze and delight. They opened one into the other^ 
boudoir, droasing-room, bedroom — in one ahining vista of 
color and splendid upholstery. 

*' Oh, Alwynl'' she cried. 

And tliere words failed, and she stood speechless, gazing 
with eyes like midnight moons. 

Alwyn laughed; but he also pressed her arm in warning. 

** Not so loud, my dear," ho said; " your maid will hear 
you. Here she comes. I will leave you in her charge, 
xour trunlcs will be up directly. This is your attendant, 
my dear. Louiso, I believe the name is?" 

A tall, stylish-looking damsel, in a pretty cambric wrap- 
per and coquettish white apron, bowed low in assent. 

It was quite as much as nervous Estella could do to re- 
turn it. 

** You will assist your mistress to dress for breakfast, 
Louise. Our time is nine, Estella; the bell will ring in 
half an hour. And you really like your rooms? 1 am 
glad of that. They are pretty, and I selected everything 
myself." 

He drew forward a seat, placed her in it, kissed the broad, 
girlish forehead tenderly, and left the apartment. 

And Estella for the first time in her life was a captive 
in the hands of her maid. She did not venture to speak; 
she was trembling from heard to foot, partly with nervous- 
ness, partly at the strangeness of it all. 

But Louise was past-mistress of her profession, and need- 
ed few instructions. She swiftly removed the traveling 
wraps and heavy boots, and threw open one of the large 
trunks. 

" What will you please to wear, madame?" 

She spoke respectfully, but there was a gleam of con- 
tempt in her eye. Like Mrs. Hamilton, she saw through 
her new mistress at once. 

** I shall have an easy time,*' she said, inwardly. ** She 
don't know anything. If that old cat, Mrs. Hamilton, 
minds her own business, I can about do as 1 like. I don't 
believe she ever had a maid before. " 

Estella had little choice to make — all her dresses were 
black. She chose one, and Louise arranged it and her 
hair, and the swift toilet was made before the breakfast- 
''ell rung. At its first chime Alwyn Bartram reappeared* 



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188 



estella's husband. 



" Dressed, Essie? Then come — come down. I wonder 
if you are half as hungry as I am? But of course you 
are not — you ladies never are. How do you like your 
maid?" 

**0h, Alwyn!" Mrs. Eartram said, piteously, looking 
up in his facie, ** must I have a maid? I don't know 
wnat to do (vith her, or what to say to her, and 1 had much 
rather dress myself. Must I keep her?*' 

** Nonsense, Essie! Of course you must. What to say 
to her, indeed! Give her your orders, of course, and see 
that she executes them. And for pity's sake, child, don't 
look so frightened of Mrs. Hamilton. She won't eat you, 
although you looked so exactly like Little Red Hiding 
Hood in the awful presence of the AVolf when I introduced 
you. Eemember, you are mistress here, not she, and assert 
yourself accordingly." 

Assert herself I She shrunk like a sensitive plant at his 
words, and the pretty lips trembled like a child's about to 
cry. The brown eyes did fill, but she forced those puerile 
drops back to their source. 

The next moment they were in the breakfast-parlor, 
where Mrs. Hamilton stood like an elderly priestess presid- 
ing over steaming urns of coffee and tea. 

It was a silent meal as far as one of the party was con- 
cerned — Mr. Bartram's wife. Mrs. Hamilton's smooth 
flow of small-talk rarely died away, and she talked well — 
that kind of small coin which passes muster in society. She 
retailed all the gossip, all the news, and scandal and bon- 
mots of the past week or two with an easy glibness that 
was perfection in its way. 

** And Clara Leesom's engagement has been made known 
at last. I always thought Arthur Manners paid her more 
marked attention than gentlemen like him pay, unless they 
seriously incline to matrimony. And speaking of the Man- 
ners family, Mrs. George Manners gave the most brilliant 
ball of the season, last week, and as usual Mrs. Eutherford 
was the ' bright particular star ' of the occasion. They say 
young Lord Everleigh, who is making the tour of this 
continent, and was present, completely lost his head, and 
fell madly in love with her. He is still in New York, and 
haunts the Rutherford mansion like a ghost Ah, dear, 
what a terrible thing a married flirt is, to be sure! is it not, 
my dear Mrs. Bar tram?" 



estblla's husband. 



189 



Down 
more 
they 
Man- 
liant 
rford 
y say 
this 
and 
and 
dear, 
; not- 



Mrs. Bartram, raising her timid eyes to reply an unin- 
telligible something, caught a look in her husband's face 
that transfixed her. 

He had grown very pale; his eyes shone with a fierce glit' 
ter, and his mustached lip curled in scorn. 

*' So my Lady Leonie Keeps at her old tricks, does shef 
And the poor young lordling is badly hipped. What a 
lucky man old Rutherford is!'* 

Mrs. Hamilton shrugged her broad shoulders. 

*' My dear Mr. Bartram, what else could have been ex- 
pected? Such a loveless, ill-assorted match! I am a very 
sentimental old woman, Mrs. Bartram, and still maintain 
that popular fallacy of my youth, that marriage without 
love is little better than no marriage at all. But Mr. 
Rutherford is going to remove his pretty wife out of the 
reach of danger. They sail for Cuba to-day. He has es- 
tates there, you know, and, singular to relate, she goes with 
him willingly." 

Mr. Bartram 's lip curled with still more intense scorn. 

** He need not fear; his pretty wife is a great deal too 
worldly wiso ever to compromise herself. Admirers she 
may have by the score — a lover never — while her husband 
lives. 1 have the honor of knowing Leonie De MontreuiJ 
tolerably well." 

Estelia started. " De Montreuil '* and Leonie!" she 
remembered now * Leonie " was the name on the portrait, 
and it all flashed upon her. The beautiful original had 
been false, and he had married her in a fit of spleen. 

But " De Montreuil " — could she be that ward of her 
father's, recently wedded, of whom he had spoken in one 
of his letters to Helen Mallory? 

She sat with a puzzled face throughout breakfast, long- 
ing to ask but not finding courage for her husband's face 
had clouded blackly, and all Mrs. Hamilton's airy chit-chat 
could not lift the cloud it had raised. 

And so Estelia Bartram was at home, and fairly launched 
on her new life. And Alwyn Bartram was very good to 
his poor little, timid bride, and took her everywhere that 
her mourning rendered admissible, and devoted himself to 
her with the assiduity of a model bridegroom. That way 
duty Idy, and he honestly tried to do his duty in those first 
months; but he did not love her, and, in the midst of ail 
her happiness, Estelia would often see that somber cloud 







100 



estella's husband. 



darken the handsome face of her demi-^od, the black eyes 
cload and gloom, the perfect lips compress themselves in 
inexpressible pain, and know, with a pang as keen as 
death, that he was thinking of his lost love. For she 
knew all that commonplace story of woman's falsity by 
this time — how madly he had adored, how cruelly he had 
been jilted, when he lost his uncle's fortune — how, hollow- 
eyed and despairing, he had risen up before her, on her 
wedding-day, like some awful, black-browed ghost. 

Mrs. Hamilton had entertained her with the interesting 
little romaunt, and had informed her that Leonie was 
indeed the niece of Count De Montreuil. 

'* And poorer than a church-mouse, my dear Mrs. Bar- 
tram," the elegant widow said, cheerfully, " before he 
picked her up. They are always the worst after wealth, 
those adopted daughters — half-starved from childhood — on 
the principle, 1 suppose, of a burned child dreading the 
tire. But really those old stories about Mr. Bartram's 
infatuation must have been without foundation after all, 
else he had never fallen in love and married you so 
quickly." 

She looked at EsteJla with her stereotyped " society " 
simper, and the poor little wife winced, as if a lance had 
entered her flesh. Slie knew, and Mrs. Hamilton knew, 
and all those magnificent ladies, old friends of her husband, 
who called upon her in superb toilets, knew why he had 
married her. 

** And when is Mrs. Rutherford expected back?" she 
asked, in a subdued tone. 

** Some time next summer, I believe — from Cuba — but 
she will hardly reach Kew York before October. Quite 
time enough, dear Mrs. Bartram," with an unpleasant 
laugh, " for Mr. Bar tram to totally forget her, even if he 
has not done so already. Fidelity to the absent is not in 
the nature of man — at least of any man I ever knew; and 
yet — he was passionately devoted to her." 

Mrs. Bartram asked no more questions, but from that 
hour an unutterable dread of Leonie Rutherford's return 
took possession of her. 

Oh, if she would never come back — or if they could go 
away — if anything would happen to prevent her husband 
and this fatal Circe from meeting again! For he luas grow- 
ing fond of her in this daily companionship;, and the bright^ 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



191 



»» 



" she 

—but 
Quite 
asant 
if he 
Qot in 
and 



lid go 
sband 
;row- 
right. 



Bess had come back to her cheeks and the golden glitter to 
her eyes, and she was improved so much every way, in 
look and manners, that he no louger shrunk sensitively 
when he presented her to his critical friends. 

*'For you are prettier than half of them, Essie," he 
said, ** powdered and painted puppets, and twice as grace- 
ful. You look like a field-daisy in the center of a bouquet 
of flaunting sunflowers. Only, my pet, don't wear that 
scared face in their august presence, and try to find your 
tongue sometimes — you can talk better than they can, if it 
comes to that — and donU look up at them with such 
great piteous brown eyes. They say as plainly as eyes can 
say, ' Magnificent lady, I am a poor little frightened 
country-girl — take pity en me, and do not snub me!' 1 
don't like it, Essie, and it makes them laugh." 

The immortal rule of the Caudle Lectures was reversed, 
you see, in the case of this pair — Mr. Caudle delivered the 
lectures, and Mrs. Caudle smothered wistful little sighs, 
and did her best — but her best was generally a failure. 

She could not get used to stately Mrs. Hamilton — to 
pert, saucy Louise — to those dashing New York damsela 
who chatted like magpies around her, and transfixed her 
with what an English writer calls ** an American girl's 
broad stare. " She could not get used to society — to stifiE 
dinner-parties, to formal calls, to incessant dressing, and 
driving, and shopping, and receiving visitors, and presid- 
ing at her husband's dinner-table; and she made piteous 
fiascos, and excoriated his sensitive pride every day of his 
life. 

And the months went— March, April, May, June. The 
city was growing intolerably hot and thinning fast. Mr. 
Bartram, who was working hard this spring and summer — 
really hard, and whose Undine " had been a success — 
resolved to eschew watering-places, and be off among the 
mountains. 

" ' My heart is in the Highlands,' Mrs. Hamilton," he 
said, gayly; " I have had a surfeit of Newport and Cape 
May, and the rest of them. And Essie wouldn't like it, 
I know — she looks like a wilted lily already. I'll take her 
up the Hudson, and feed her on sweet milk, and new but- 
ter, and home-made bread, and have her out every morn- 
ing at peep of day, and keep her on the steady tramp till 
dewy eve. And I will paint mountain storms, and high- 



!ii!^ 




.m^v 



193 



estella's nrsT^AXD. 



II 



land scenery, and immortalize myself, and we will come 
back in October browner than gypsies, fatter than Bridget, 
the cook, and happier than kings and queens." 

Mr. Bartram kept his word. He left New York and his 
gorgeous housekeeper, and the flippant fernine-de-cliambre, 
and all Estella's pet horrors, behind, and took her with 
him up among the hills. He carried out his programme 
to the letter; he painted assiduously, and she was ever at 
his side, scampering over the breezy hills, eMailing on the 
lakes, bright and glad as the golden summer days them- 
selves. Por once she was really and truly happy without 
alloy — her idol was all her own at last, and — oh, blissful 
thought — really growing to love her! Through all the 
darkness of the after time, that radiant summer among the 
Highlands of the Hudson stood out brilliant and cloudless, 
the happiest time of her life. 

But October came, v^nd the gypsy life must end; they 
must go back to the weary city to the old tread-mill life 
— to Mrs. Hamilton, to Louise, to the dressing and dining, 
and the party-going and giving. Mrs. Bartram's heart 
sunk within her at the dismal prospect. 

*' And she will be there,'' she thought, in terror and de- 
spair, remembering the fatal Leonie; '^ and he will meet 
her, and, oh, what will become of me? If this life could 
only go on forever! or if that dreadful Mrs. Butherford 
would never come back!" 

She kept her fears to herself, 
inexpressibly, this morbid dread 
this chronic shyness and timidity, 
like the dashing young ladies he knew, who feared nothing 
in heaven or earth, and yet be her own wild daisy-sefl 
still. ^ 

Mrs. Hamilton, unchanged, except by the addition ef 
another double chin, welcomed Mr. and Mrs. Bartram 
back with gracious dignity upon their return early in 
November. And Louise took possession of her wretched 
little slave once more, and made her life a misery to her; 
and callers came, and Estella was nowhere, as usual. In- 
vitations poured from all quarters, and Alwyn Bartram's 
wife was to make her debut in general society at last. 

The terrible night came — the night of her first grand 
bnll. All in white, like the heroine of a novel — in dead 
white silk, that swept behind her in a train of richness, all 



It annoyed Mr. Bartram 

his wife had of society. 

He wanted her to be 



estella's husband. 



19» 



I come 
ridget, 

lud his 
ambre, 
3r with 
ramme 
ever at 
OQ the 
them- 
vithout 
blissful 
all the 
ong the 
)udle8S, 

d; they 
iiill life 
dining, 
s heart 

and de- 
ill meet 
:e could 
herford 

$artram 
society, 
to be 
othing 
isy-seS 

itJon ef 
^artram 
larly in 
Iretched 
Ito her; 
U. In- 
rtram's 

3t. 

grand 
tn dead 
less, all 



filmy with lace and illusion, all looped up with lilies and 
forget-me-nots, and crowned with lily leaves and lily buds, 
Mrs. Alwyn Bartram stood before her mirror, looking at 
herself with wild, wide eyes, and wondering if ** I be 1.'* 

The snowy robe was lower of neck and shorter of sleeve 
than anything she had ever worn before, tind she trembled 
as she gazed, and stood as white as the lilies in her hair. 
She need not; she looked lovely, almost lovely enough to 
bear comparison with the peerless Leonie herself. And so 
her husband's admiring eyes said, as he drew her to him 
and kissed her fondly. 

** My darling!" he exclaimed, ** how sweet, how puko, 
how fresh you look! You are like your own lilies — you 
are lovely to-night!" 

And then he led her away, down to the carriage, and they 
rrere ofiE to the brilliant mansion up the avenue. 

Oh, happy Eatella! That night shone out from all other 
nights of her life — the last of her wifely peacie and bliss. 

They were unusually late, and the gorgeous rooms were 
filled. And amid all the belles of the night, dazzling in 
the dark splendor of her insolent beauty, the first face 
Alwyn Bartram saw upon entering was the fatal face of 
Leonie! 

He stood still, thrilling from head to foot. He had not 
expected her; he did not even know she was in New York, 
and there she stood before him, resplendent in roses and 
diamonds, her glorious eyes outflashing her gems, her 
ripe red lips curved in ceaseless smiles. More beautiful 
ihan he had ever seen her she stood before him — a fatal 
Circe to madden men. 

She saw him instantly, and smiled and bowed. A 
moment later and she was before him, holding out her 
hand. 

" At last, Mr. Bartram, after an eternity of separation 
we meet again. But people always do meet again in Kew 
York. And how remarkably well you are looking I 
Life among the mountains agrees with you." 

He bent above the little dark hand, very pale, and with 
a strange glitter in his eyes. Ah, the old love was alive 
yet! 

** 1 can return the compliment, V^s. Rutherford — you 
are looking better than I ever saw yoti. i need not ask if 
you have enjoyed your summer tour; -'our face speaks for 



iiU^' 







vJ J* I 



194 



estella's husband. 



^ou. Allow me to make you acauaiuted with my wife — 
Vlrs. Rutherford, Mrs. Bartram. 

And so they had mot, the old lovers, and so the two 
wives stood lace to face at last. ]31ack eyes and brown eyes 
flashed together, in one steady glance. The rivals took 
eaoh other's measure in that first second of time. Then, 
two tinv hands — one pearl white, the other dusk and blaz- 
ing v^ith diamonds — clasped in hollow, outward friendship. 

** I have so longed to meet you, dear Mrs. Bartram," 
brilliant Mrs. liutheford said, with her most bewitching 
smile. *' 1 have heard of you so often, and your husband 
and 1 are quite old friends. And how do you like New 
York?" 

From that moment Estella had but a confused memory 
K)f the events of that wretched night. Mrs. Kutherford drew 
her out a little, found what she was made of, and coolly 
dismissed her. Her insolent smile was at its brightest 
M she sailed off on the arm of her serf, Mr. Waldron. 

** Poor little thing!" she said, with a shrug; '* so pretty, 
80 helpless, so mute! One feels for her, really! And that 
is Alwyn Bartram 's wife!" 

** She is the sweetest little creature 1 ever met!" re- 
sponded Mr. Waldron, twirling his mustache; ** and, by 
Jove! there's only one other as lovely in the room! And 
you pity Alwyn Bartram's wife! Magnanimous of yon, I 
'nustsay." 

Half an hour later, Leonie was whirling round the long 
ball-room in the arms of Estella's husband. Mrs« Bartram 
never waltzed at her husband's expressed desire; but the 
rule did not apply to him. He waltzed and waltzed again, 
always with Mrs. Eutherford;, and his wife stood a little 
apart and looked on. Others looked, too. There was 
nothing like them there — matchless for beauty and grace. 

** Such a pity," a young man said — ** pity to uncouple 
such a well-matched span! Handsome as angels, both — 
fallen angels, you know — and madly in love still. One 
doesn't mind old Rutherford — serves him right; but, egad! 
the pretty little wife — one feels for her. And she's fond 
<i>f the beggar, too." 

He sauntered away, never seeing the object of his com- 
passion. And E Stella, faint and sick, leaning against a 
pillar, never forgot, the pang of intolerable pain and jeal- 
Aosy that pierced her heart then. 



V!\ 



estella's hubeand. 



195 



The ball ended. Mr. Bartram took his wife home, bui 
Mrs. Bartram shivered, unheeded, in a corner, and ho sal 
lost in a dangerous dream. 

Not half a dozen words were exchanged on the homeward 
way, and Estella run up to her room >*t once, with a full 
heart, while Mr. Bartram, wearied out, threw himself on 
a sofa in the library, and, dressed as he was, fell fast asleep. 

Some hours later, when his wife entered, he still Hy 
there — sleeping — dreaming. One arm plilowed his hand- 
some head, a smile parted the chiseled lips. She bent 
above him and kissed him with passionate love. The 
smile died away, and murmured words came. 

*' Wait for me, Leonie," he said. " Oh, my darling — 
be true! be true!" 



CHAPTER XXI. 

TH E LOST HEIR. 

Mr. Bartram slept late on that morning after the ball, 
and breakfasted alone in his dressing-room. His wife had 
arisen and gone out for a walk. Mrs. Hamilton was busy 
in the domestic apartment; so he ha^^ ^is chocolate and his 
waffles, and his grapes, and his thoughts all to himself. 
He threw on his picturesque black velvet painting robe 
and cap after breakfast, and went up to his atelier to 
work, but his ** Moon-rise on the Lake " made very little 
progress on that particular day. How could he paint 
misty-blue hills, purple mountain tarns, faint young sum 
mer moons, and blue-black midnight skies, with the darkly 
witching face of that fatal sorceress, Mrs. William Euther- 
ford, flashing between him and the canvas, with its bril- 
liant, ceaseless smile? He could not paint; he flung away 
his brushes in disgust, and sat down, moodily, in the sun^ 
lit window, to smoke and exorcise his beautiful famil- 
iar. But the black, starry eyes, long, limpid, and velvety 
— the cheeks of pomegranate bloom — the sweet-curved, 
rose-red lips — pursued him until he almost went mado 
He threw his cheroot out of the window with a deep oath, 
at last, and taking up his pencil, began drawing that haunt* 
jng face. TTiis soothed him. Again and again he drew it 
— now in profile, now sad, now gay. but over and ovej 
again. 

T4ie wintery November afternoon waned, the first dress- 



\ 'I 






I: 



106 



bstblla'8 husband. 



Hi 






ing-bell rung, and still he sat gazing with glowing ejes oi 
the matchleiis countenance. His wife's soft tap at tht 
door was unheard. She turned the hatidle and entered^ 
still unheard; she crossed the room iiglitly, with a half 
smile on her lips, to surprise him with a word and caress. 
She bent lightly over his shoulder, and saw his afternoon'a 
work. An instant later and he was alone. 

The loud clang of the dinner-bell aroused him. He 
started up, and for the first time his folly dawned upon 
him in its true light. With a second passionate impreca- 
tion, he snatched up his hand full of drawings and fiung 
them into the blazing fire. 

** Good Heavens I" he said, ** what a fool, what a be'* 
sotted ass, what a scoundrel I am! That woman is no^ 
worth the paper on which I have drawn her fatal faceu 
and here 1 lose my whole day idiotically over her. And f 
a married man, too! I'll tear her out of my imbecil* 
heart if I have to tear it out by the roots. ** 

He ground his teeth vindictively as he ran up to his room. 
His toilet was necessarily of the briefest; out when it is 
only a man's wife and housekeeper who await him, wha^ 
need to be particular? 

*^ 1 have detained you, I am afraid," he said, as he en 
tered the dining-room; " but up in my studio I forgek 
Bublunary things. And how do you feel after your firsfc 
ball, Essie, and how did you enjoy yourself?" 

** Not very well, I am afraid," Mrs. Hamilton answered 
for her. *' She looks wretchedly to-day. Ah, my dear 
Mr. Bartram, I fear you will never make her a woman of 
society! One night's dissipation wilts the roses of a whole 
summer." 

** Heaven forbid that I should ever make her a * woman 
of society!' " Mr. Bartram answered, bitterly; "you and 
I know what they are, Mrs. Hamilton. You are pale, Essie 
— fagged to death, I should say; and yet you danced very 
little.^' 

Estella murmured something, her lips quivering, her 
eyes filling; but a lump rose in her throat, and choked her 
voice. And ?ie could wonder at her pale cheeks anc^ 
dimmed eyes, after last night — after to-day. 

** Everybody was there, I presume?" inquired Mr& 
Hamilton. '' I have been asking Mra. Bartram, ba* 



estella's husband. 



197 



Mr& 



really she is not yery comiuunioative. Was Mrs. Buthei 
ford?" 

She asked the Question abruptly, and she saw, and £8> 
tella saw, the dark-red ^ush that mounted to Mr. Bar. 
tram's swarth brow. 

*' Yes,*' he said, curtly; ** Mrs. Rutherford was there." 

** And handsome as ever, no doubt?" 

** Handsomer, 1 think. The Kutherford diamonds, 
and the plethoric purse of the millionaire agree with the 
little fortune-huntress." 

**AndMr. Kutherford?" 

*' Oh, much the same as usual!" impatiently; **red- 
faced, loud-voiced, sulky and jealous. Estellu, you eat 
nothing; let me help you to the breast of this partridge." 

*'i)o you go out to-might?" Mrs. Hamilton ventured 
to inquire, after a pause. *' I ask, because dear Mrs. Bar* 
tram really looks unfit for anything but bed." 

'" Then she shall go to bed: and the earlier the better. 
F'>r me, 1 have an engagement. " 

He felt a twinge as he said it. Yes, an engagement for 
a Broadway theater, made with Mrs. Rutherford, to wit- 
ness the debut of a celebrated European actress. He had 
promised to take his wife to the performance, but her 
pallid cheeks and heavy eyes came, fortunately, to the 
rescue. 

Mr. Bartram made a most elaborate toilet, and, looking 
magnificently handsome, entered the crowded theater, and 
sauntered round to Mrs. Rutherford's box. The enchant- 
ress, gorgeous in green moire and sparklmg emeralds, sat 
with her friend, Mrs. Manners, surrounded, as usual, by 
a circle of devoted worshipers. But she turned from them 
all with an enchanting smile, and held out her sparkling 
hand to her handsome favorite. 

** Vandal! Goth! Late, and R playing * Marie 

Stuart!' You deserve the bastinado! Ah, she is charm- 
ing! I saw her in Paris; but she is ever a sort of surprise. 
And how is Mrs. Bartram?" 

" Not very well," Mrs. Bartram's husband answered, 
rather moodily; ^* fatigued, and unable to come out. She 
had retired before I left." 

'* Ah! our terrible city life — our late hours — our gas-light 
— our dissipation! We hardened creatures stand it some- 
how, but tne fresh little country beauties " — with a shrug 



i ' » 



i • 






. -J^K^'^ 



198 



estrlla's bumbakd. 



ftnd a smile that stung him to the quick — ** they droo. 
like broken roses. I only trust she will be able to attend 
my reception next Thursday night." 

Mr. Bartram bowed coldly, the frown on his brow deepen- 
ing. Her half-pitying, half-contemptuous tone and 
amile — he understood both, and hardly knew, for the mo- 
ment, whether the anger in his heart was for her or for 
Estella. 

But Mrs. Rutherford was noL going to let him grow 
sullen and silent; she had come to charm, and churm she 
would. She leaned back in her chair, looking wondrously 
lovely, and the almond eyes flashed up at Tiim, and the 
radiant smiles shone their brightest, and the glib little 
tongue chattei*ed airily, continually. She was fascinating 
And she knew it; no man alive — short of a St. Stylites 
twenty years weather-beaten on his pillar — could have re 
sisted her. Alwyn Bartram was no saint — very far from 
it; he succumbed at once. The siren wove her fatal spells 
— the smiles, the glances, the lowly murmured words he 
had to stoop his tall head very low to catch — the witching 
music, the poetry of the play — all netted him round. Be- 
fore the evening ended, Circe had her slave again; Alwyu 
Bartram forgot his wife — his promise to the dead — every- 
thing but the entrancing coquette before him. Her eyea 
were bright, her cheeks flushed with triumph, when he led 
her to her carriage. He loved her still, and she — oh 
wicked little sorceress! — she loved him, too. 

** And you will not fail on Thursday night?" Sho 
leaned toward him out of her furred wraps, with a lasl 
brilliant smile. '' Kemember, this is Tuesday. I don't 
want you tc forget." 

** I am not likely to forget. Good-night" 

He went home like a man in a dream. He ims in » 
dream— blinded, dazzled, besotted. Estella was still awake, 
pale as the pillows; but he thought her asleep, and would 
not disturb her. He lay down on a sofa in the dressing- 
room, and fell into a feverish slumber; and as she haunt- 
ed his waking hours, so Leonie also haunted his dreams. 

Mrs. Rutherford's first " At Home," after her summer's 
sojourn was brilliantly attended. She was resplendent to 
night in crimson velvet and rare old lace, and diamonc^ 
stars ablaze in her blue-black hair. She looked like A 
glowing flower of the South, as she was — a little flame </ 



estella's nrsiiANP. 



199 



Hre— iettinp; everything alight as she movinl through her 
^^usband'a gilded saloons. 

The sad heart of Kstella l/artram sunk within her as 
she looked at that dazzling beauty — so dark, so bright, so 
insolently peerless. Her own bright bloom of color had 
fled; she was as white as the roses in lur huir; slio looked 
like a spirit of the moonlight in her misty robes of illusion 
and pale ropes of pearls. A wan little shadow beside the 
llashmg diamond light and ruby-velvet splendor of the 
millionaire's wife. She had not wijhed to conic, but Mr. 
Martram had insisted — rather angrily, too. lie had no in- 
♦iBntion people should say ho neglected his wife, or was 
Ashamed of her, though both were true. Jlis uonscienoe 
was ill at ease, and he was unjust and cruel in the ptruggle 
between duty and passion, wrong and right. 

The hours wore wearily on to Kstella; head, and heart, 
and eyes ached alike with the noise, and the heat, and 
the glitter. She did not dance; she could not (jilk; she 
felt sick, and spiritless, and utterly worn out. 

Young men shrugged their shoulders and left her. 
What couhl Bartram be thinking of to marry that insipid 
little thing? 

She stole away, long past midnight, while every one 
else was at supper, to the long, deserted music-room, half 
blinded with the pain in her throbbing head. 

The apartment was vast and empty; a bay-window stood 
invitingly open, with the cool night wiiul sweeping in. 
The balcony outside was forsaken. She seated herself in 
the shadow of the curtains, and laid her hot forehead 
against the cold glass, not half so cold as the dull despair 
at her heart. 

** If I could only die," she thought, wearily, " and end 
it all! If I could only die and leave him free!" 

She sat there, heedless of the cold, of the raw November 
night wind, of the pale moonlight, of being missed, in a 
dull stupor of sick apathy. Heart, and body, and soul 
she felt worn out — tired, sick, utterly hopeless and help- 
less. 

** He loves her, and he will learn to hate me I" The 
thought surged dully through her throbbing brain. *' If 
itt were not a sin to die I would set him free to-night I*' 

A step, a voice aroused her — a step, a voice that would 
jhave almost aroused her from her death-sleep. Two peo- 



! 







1000 



estblla's husband. 



pie swept by her on the balcony — her husband, with Lecnle 
Hutheriord upon his arm. An opera-cloak draped her in its 
soft folds; she clung: to him, her face uplifted, her eyes 
passionate and imploring in the moonlight. 

*' I have repented,'' she was crying. "''1 do repent. 
Oh, Alwyn! no need to say such merciless, cruel things 
tome! You are amply avenged." 

** Yes," Alwyn Bar tram said, slowly and bitterly. " 1 
am victor; but another such victory, I think, would cost 
me my kingdom. You have only wrecked both our liveg 
^only made/ow?* lives miserable — only made me the most 

§uilty and perjured wretch alive. 1 ought to hate you. 1 
o hate you at times, and love you more madly than ever 
Btill. 1 have wooed a wife, innocent and spotless as the 
angels, who loves me with all her pure heart, and whom I 
vowed by my best friend's death-bed to love and cherish. 
<^onsistent, am I not — honorable, manly, worthy any wo- 
man's love? We were made for each other, I thinkj Leo- 
nie. We deserve each other. We both belong to the 
angels of light!'* 

He laughed a hash, strident laugh, and his dark face 
looked unutterably haggard and bitter in the moonlight. 

*' 1 was mad," Leonie said, with a sob. " I have repent- 
ed. Oh, forgive me. Alwyn! You don't know half my 
misery!" 

** Do I not? And yet, perhaps not, with old Rutherford 
for your husband. You have something that does duty 
lor a heart then, Leonie, under your red v*ilvet bodice! And 
you might safely have waited for me, and not starved on 
bread and water in a garret, after all. The year of proba- 
tion expires next week, and Eobert Bartram has not yet 
turned up. In t^ix days more I claim my dead uncle's 
fortune — that fortune which would have made you my 
wife — do you hear, Leonie?" passionately — ** my tvife I had 
I inherited it a year since. You might have waited!" 

She covered her face with her hands, sobbing impetuous- 
ly, her tears falling like rain. She did repent; she did 
love him; how fiercely only her own undisciplined heart 
^new. 



4t CJ 



bpare me!" she cried. " Have a little mercy, Alwyn 
B&rtram! When 1 think of what we are, what we might 
be, and that it is all my fault — mino — 1 feel as though I 
were going mad." 



estblla's husbakd. 



aot 



n 



He drew her suddenly to him; she looked up in his face 
through her flowing tears. She had the good-fortune, this 
matchless Leonie, to be one of the few women weepiug does 
not disfigure. He caught her and kissed her like a man 
insane. 

**Mad!" he cried. ** You have driven me mad with 
your fatal beauty! We must part, Leonie Rutherford, or 
— 1 shall be a greater villain than ever earth held before. 
Go! leave me, and let us never meet again!" 

** Alwyn," she said, trembling, fri^^htened, yet fascinat- 
ed — ** Alwyn, listen to me!" 

But he stamped his foot and turned resolutely away. 

** Go!" ho thundered, *' while I am able to say the 
word. Estella Mallory's husband and William Buther 
ford's wife must never meet again." 

He swung round as he spoke and left her. She stood »> 
moment, then flitted after him — off the balcony and ou^ 
of sight. 

And Estella! She sat vjhere she had sat when they ap- 
peared — rigid, moveless, colorless. She had never stirrec* 
once; she could not, and she had heard every word. 

Estella rose slowly when they disappeared — cramped, 
numbed, chilled to the heart. Dully, she recollected thaV- 
she mi^ht be missed, might be searched for, might b** 
found there. She had no wish for that. 

She tottered, rather than walked, in her blind misery, 
back to the ball-room. There the first person she en- 
countered was her husband. 

*' 1 have been looking for you, Estella," he said, hur^ 
riedly. ** The carriage is here; 1 want to take you home. " 

He never noticed her marble face, her dilated eyes. He 
was totally p/osorbed in his own fierce, inward struggle. 

Fifteen minutes later, and still in dead silence, husband 
and wife were on their way home. 

Mrs. Bartram kept her chamber all the next day with a 
blinding headache, that left her unable to move, or speak, 
Ci' think. 

Mr. Bartram shut himself up in his painting-room, and 
smoked savagely, and painted fiercely a lurid sunset on 
the sea. But as the twilight deepened and fell, he flung 
away brushes and cigars, and sought out his wife. 

She lay upon the bed, Ler face hidden, still as death. 



"■^i\ 






M 



202 



estella's husband. 




f >•*. 



** Are you asleep, Estella?'' he asked^ standing besidv 
her. 

"No." 

Her voice sounded smothered and far off; his^ hareJU 
with inward pain. 

" Are you better?" 

** Nc— yes — I donH know." 

He hardly heeded her answer, he was wrapped utterly in 
his own fierce struggle. 

** 1 am going to take you away, Estella — away from this 
accursed city "—he set his teeth — ** a^ay from this horri- 
ble life, never, perhaps, to return. J am going abroad — 
to France, Italy, anywhere — and that immediately. We 
will sail next month. " 

She never spoke. The white face lay upon the pillows: 
the mournful hrown eyes looked out into the twilight ia 
speechless despair. 

" If Robert Bartram does not turn up within the next 
five days," her husband went on, " my late uncle's fort- 
une is mine. He may be alive and well, and reappear anv 
time after he chooses, but it will then be too late. My 
uncle's will was most unjust, most ungenerous. He haii 
no right to let me go on expecting to inherit his wealth, 
and then cut me oS. because I could not take up his grul# 
bing stock-broking. His fortune will eventually come to mt , 
in spite of that unjust will, and I am heartily glad of ii., 
Helen Mallory's money belongs to you. I shall never touch 
another penny of it; it has gone against the grain to use it 
from the first. 1 shall dispose of this house and furniture 
our servants and horses, and we will leave New York, and 
be^in our new life together far away. You have no objec- 
tion, Estella?" 

"No.'' 

" He just caught the faintly-breathed word— no more. 
He turned to leave the roon.. 

" Then you commence yom* preparation to-morrow, if 
you are able; if not, authorize Mrs. Hamilton and Louise. 
Try to sleep and be able to risv^ to-morrow. We shall be 
very busy, and you will need all your strength. " 

He quitted the apartment, and went out into the starlit 
streets. Involuntarily his steps turned in the direction of 
the Kutherford mansion. 

The carriage stood waiting before the door; of course. 



KSTELLA S HUSBAXD. 



203 



LMVy 



ICrs. Rutherford was going out. He loitered a moment 
over the way, in the deep shadow, and had his reward. 

Leonie Rutherford came forth, in resplendent attire, as 
usual, entered, and was wl irled uff. He just caught a 
glimpse of the exquisite face in the gas-light — then it was 
gone to light up some festive gathering; and, setting his 
strong white teeth, he strode on, under the cold November 
night. 

Mr. and Mrs. Bartram began their preparations for im- 
mediate departure, and Mrs. Rutherford heard the news 
with bitter despair. 

He could break his bonds then, after all, and leave her, 
and what would her hollow, brilliant life be worth when 
^e was gone? 

She paced up and down her luxurious rooms at dead of 
night when she had much better have been asleep, her 
hands clinched, her eyes ablaze, her heart torn with pas- 
sionate pain. 

** Oh, fool, fool, miserable fool that I have been," she 
thought, almost madly, " to give him and his love for 
William Rutherford's gold and this pitiful, empty life! 
And now, when 1 know how worthless i all is, and how I 
love him, it is too late! And the fortune for whose loss 1 
resigned him will be his, after all, and hers ! Oh, bitter, 
bitter, bitter is my punishment, indeed!" 

The last night of the year of probation had come — very 
learly the last night of Alwyn Bartram 's stav in New 
fork. 

There was a dinner-party in honor of the occasion, to 
which only Mr. Bartram's special and select friends were 
invited ; and neither Mr. nor Mrs. Rutherford was present. 

Since that uight on the balcony, the siren and her slave 
had never met. The siren had striven hard enough, 
heaven knows, but the slave was not quite dead to strength 
and honor, and had sternly resisted. They bad not met, 
and they would never meet again if he could help it. 

They were all in the drawing-room after dinner — Mr. 
Bartram the merest trifle exhilarated with wine and tri- 
umph, sli':;htly flashed, quite matchless in his magnificent 
manliood; Mrs. Bartram, pale as a lily, languid, droop- 
ng, silent, after her recent illness— a piteous contrast to 
filer superb lord. 

There was music and laughttr, and brilliant conversa- 



i 



mm 



I'if* 






904 



estella's husband. 



tioD, and the golden hours that made Alwyn master of his 
dead uncle's thousands v^ere speeding fast, when the door- 
bell rung — a peal so loud, so long, so authoritative, that 
everybody started. 

** At this hour,'* Alwyn Bartram said; "almost mid- 
night! Who can it be?" 

A dead hush fell. A servant flung wide the door, and, 
in a voice that rung through the room, announced: 

" Mr. Robert Bertram!'* 

It was a perfect coup de theatre. You might have heard 
a feather drop, as a tail, fair-haired young man, with a 
handsome, reckless face^ bold, roving blue eyes, and a 
splendid length and strength of limb strode into their 
midst. 

A little, quiet, lawyer-like person followed; but no one 
hoeded him. The tall young man made straight for the 
giver of the feast with the easy nonchalance of a prince of 
the blood, holding out his ungloved right hand. 

" Rather late, Alwyn,'' he said, ** out better late than 
never. The year expires at midnight, and it is half past 
eleven now. Very sorry to deprive you of a fortune, dear 
boy, but you see 1 am alive, and likely to remain so for 
some time to come. You know me, don't you? or have 
all these years of absence blotted me out of your cousinly 
/egard?'* 

A Iwyn Bartram stood, pale as death, gazing full at the 
new comer with large, startled eyes. 

** I know you," he said, slowly. ** Yes, Rober Bartram, 
1 know you, and you are in time." 

His last words were lost in a sobbing cry. Estella Bar- 
tram, standing unnoticed near, had fallen fainting head- 
long upon the floor, without word or cry. 



CHAPTER XXII. 



ESTELLA S SECRET. 



The dinner-party broke up in the most admired confu- 
sion — the be^L metropolitan society had received a shock 
and a new sensation, and harried homeward to spread the 
news. 

It was better than the best melo-drama that ever was 
written. The lost heir turning rp at rhe. eleventh hour — 



estella's husband. 



206 



n Lara returning to his anceBtral halls with senBational 
effect — Alwyn Bartram uncrowned and unsceptred wheu 
every one thought him sure of his kingdom, and that 
pallid, excitable little shadow, Mrs. Bartram, (lro])ping in 
a dead faint at everybody's feet. It was a t^eene unpre- 
cedented in all the whole experierce of all those languid 
diners-out. 

Mrs. Bartram was conveyed to her room, and Mrs, 
Hamilto!! and Louisie bent over her with restoratives. The 
faint was of brief duration — the brown eyes opened, wild 
and wide, bhe started up on her elbow, with a loud, 
startled cry. 

'* Where is he?" she wildly asked. '* Where is Roysten 
Barrel!?" 

" Whof said Mrs. Hamilton. *' There is no such 

?erson, my dear Mrs. Bartram. You are a little confused, 
am afraid — you fainted, you know, at sight of your 
husband's cousin, Mr. Robert Bartram. It was a shock, 
I must allow, to the whole of us, but really I had no idea 
you were so excitable." 

Estella had fallen back among her pillows before the 
kind of this soothing little speech, her hands covering her 
face, trembling with excitement from head to foot. 

* Where is Mr. Bartram?" she inquired, in a smothered 
^oice. 

*' Your husband? In the drawing-room, my dear, with 
liis cousin and that lawyer person." 

" And all those people? 

" Your guests? Oh, dispersed, of course, to spread the 
wonderful news. Perhaps you had better not talK too 
much — you are not at all strong. Shall I remain, or will 
I turn down the light and leave you to sleep?" 

** Leave me, please." 

Mrs. Hamilton lowered the gas, and quitted the apart- 
ment with Louise. 

But Estella did not sleep; a new and undreamed of 
horror had taken possession of her, body and soul. Not 
the sight of Robert Bartram, the heir, had caused that 
swoon, but the sight of the man she thought dead months 
and months ago. Captain Roysten Darrell. And he 
claimed to be her husband, and Alwyn Bartram knew 
nothing of that dark secret of her life, and now they were 
closeted together and all would come out 



> ' it 



.r; i 



!■ 



906 



estella's husband. 



m' 



** He saw me, and knew me, of course, and he will tell 
tiis story first, and Alwyn will believe him. He will only 
be too glad of an excuse to cast me off; he hates me 
Already. How can he help it, loving her as he does.^ Oh, 
why, why, why, was 1 ever born?" 

She lay there, suffering such anguish as few suffer m a 
life-time. It seemed to her — poor, despairing child — that 
one trouble only ended to herald in a greater. Would she 
ever again look upon the face of her earthly idol after this 
terrible night? She lay still as stone, counting the pass- 
ing hours. One by one they went — pale and overcast the 
chill November morning dawned. Ko sound had disturbed 
the deep silence of the house — if her enemies had gone she 
had not heard them. And Alwyn — why did he not ap- 
pear at her bedside, dark and terrible, to accuse her of her 
-crime? 

The new day had fairly broke before he came. Very 
pale, very stern, indeed, he entered at last, but there was 
no wrath in his face for her. On the contrary, he wag 
unusually gentle and tender as he bent over her. 

"My poor, little, pale girl,'' he said, kissing her, 
** awake still! Have you not been asleep at all, Estella?" 

"No. ' 

" You nervous, excitable child! I hope you are better, 
Ht least?" 

"Yes." 

" It was like the entrance of Banquo's Ghost, was it not 
—my cousin's startling appearance last night? No wonder 
^ little, nervous subject like you fainted. Upon my word, 
I felt like it myself," he laughed a brief, bitter laugh. 
" Well, it is he, Essie — Robert Bartram in the flesh, and 
no spectral illusion, and my Uncle Wylder's heir claims 
his own. Alwyn Bartram must continue a dependtMit on 
the fortune of his wife." 

JShe turned away her face. 

What did it mean? Had Roysten Darrell then gone, 
and her secret with him? 

" Is he still in the house?" she ventured to ask. " Does 
he remain here?" 

*' Here? Most certainly not. He went, and his legal 
adviser also, several hours ago; but I thought you asleep, 
and would not disturb you. For myself, I was long past 
slumber. I have been taking pedestrian exercise up and 



e8tella's husband. 



207 



legal 

deep, 

past 

and 



ilowQ the drawing-room, and thinking over what is best tt 
be done. I don't see why we need change our programme 
for this unpleasant little contretempSy Essie. We can go 
abroad all the same. I hate New York, and everything 
connected with it. I will be a better husband, and you a 
happier wife, with thousands of miles between us and it 
"We will depart as we had arranged, Estella, and turn over 
a new leaf, and think upon th's old life only as a bad 
dream. In Italy — who knows — I maji become a painter; 
here I am nothing. We will go, and to-morrow I will 
depart for Philadelphia." 
^* Philadelphia?" 

** Yes. I have business there, and old friends to say 
good-bye to. There need be no fuss, and no packing. !5 
will return in a few days. Shall you get up to breakfasL» 
Essie?" 

" If you wish if 

" Oh, it doesn't matter! 1 am going out. Robert Bar- 
tram has effectually taken away my appetite for the pres- 
ent. But get up if you can, and don't distress yourself 
about this disagreeable business. We are not quite pau- 
pers, and will do very well, I dare say. Good-morningI 
Let me find you up and about upon my return." 

He kissed her once more, and went out. She turned her 
face to the wall, with a choking, hysterical sob. 

*' He has not told, then, after all, and I — I can not, 1 ' 
he were stern and cruel, 1 might summon courage to facv 
the worst, but his kisses kill me. How can I live if I lose 
him? I love him so dearly — so dearly!" 

There was a discreet rap at the door; her maid came to 
dress her. She entered before her mistress could speak, 
closed the door after her, and approached the bed, with a 
lace full of importance. 

'* I beg your pardon, Mrs. Bartram," said Louise, *' but 
I have a message for you. I hope you will not be offended; 
if 1 had not brought it, one of the other servants tvould, " 

She put her hand in her pocket and produced a sealed 
note. There was no superscription on the wrapper, and 
Estella looked at the girl in wonder. 

** Who gave you this?" 

** The strange gentleman, madame, who came last night 
— Mr. Robert Bartram. " 



rl 






il> 



208 



estella's husband. 



Estella littered a faint cry, and started up in bed. 

** What do you mean? Mr. Robert Bartram?" 

** Yes, madame,*' responded Louise, with infinite calm. 
" It was after Mrs. Hamilton and J left you. 1 chanced to 
be standing in the area, talking^ to — to a friend, when Mr. 
Robert Bartram and the little gentleman, the lawyer, 
same out of the front door. He espied me directly, and 
leaned over the railings, and asked me if I were not your 
maid." 

" Well?'' breathlessly. 

** I told him yes, madame, and then ho said he bad half 
ft dozen words to say to me in private. My friend depart- 
ed, the lawyer walked on, and he descended to the area. He 
ftsked me, as a most particular favor to deliver this note, 
unseen by any one; and 1 — what could 1 do, madame — ji 
took it, and promised. " 

The discreet Louise finished her little narrative without, 
thinking it necessary to refer to two broad gold eagle* 
Mr. Robert Bartram had dropped in her willing palm. 

** There was no opportunity of delivering it last night,** 
she went on. ** You were, no doubt, asleep; so 1 have 
taken the earliest opportunity this morning. 1 trust I 
have not done wrong. 1 hope madame is not offended?** 

'* No,** said Estella. '' Go— leave me. " 
Will madame ring when she pleases to want me?" 
Yes, yes! Go!" 

The girl departed. Before the door was well closed, 
Estella had torn open the sealed note and devoured its con* 
tents. It was insolently brief: 



n 



i( 



(( 



My Dear Little Estella, — You know me, and I 
know you, and you take me for a ghost, no doubt. No, 
my dear; 1 am worth a dozen drowned men yet, old Peter 
Fisher's fable to the contrary notwithstanding. 1 sha*n*t 
tell Alwyn Bartram that little story of the past, and I 
have every reason to feel certain you will not, if you can 
help it. I wouldn't tell him if 1 were you. He only 
wants an excuse to leave you for a certain black-eyed little 
beauty we wot of. Don't give it to him. Let us keep our 
secret — he will be none the worse for it. I want to talk 
the mtater over with you. Suppose you meet me in Union 
Square this afternoon, at four o*clock. Come veiled, so 
that no one will recognize you. Don*t fail^ my dear^ and 



bstella's husband. 



80S 



redace me to the anpleasant necessity of insisting on aa 
interriew at the house. 

Devotedly yours, 

**ROYSTEN DARRELL." 



ii 



The worst had come. This bad, bold man was her macK 
ter; she must pay the penalty of having a secret from her 
husband; she must pay the penalty of Helen Mallory's 
foolish reticence; she must meet him. 

If she had only told Alwyn Bartram, in Chelsea — if she 
had only told him during those happy summer months up 
among the hills! But she had loved him so unutterably — 
she had feared his anger so intensely — she had been such 
a wretched little coward along; and now, and 7wiu — 

Louise, the discreet, waited until she was weary, tha*"- 
morning, for madame's bell to ring. But the summons 
came at last, and entering, she found her up, wrapped in 
a white dressing-gown, and paler than that cashmere vest« 
ment. 

She was afraid to meet the girl's keen eye. She had 
always dreaded her; she had infinite reason to dread hei 
now. 

** She will tell Mrs. Hamilton about this fatal note," 
Mrs. Bartram thought, ** and she will tell Alwyn. Th© 
secret I have kept so long will soon be known, far and 
wide, now." 

It was past noon before Louise finished, yet her lady^a 
toilet was of the simplest. She had chosen her plainest 
dress — a black silk. It would save her the trouble of 
changing again before going out; and she must keep the 
appointment Koysten Darrell had made. 

** I will ere him once,'* she said, desperately. ** 1 will 
hear why he did not tell all last night. This very even- 
ing Alwyn shall know the whole miserable secret I have 
hidden from him so long. ' He will never forgive me, and 
I — 1 can but die at his feet!" 

She took her slender breakfast in her room. It was past 
two when the meal was over. Three would be early enough 
to start; she could walk to Union Square in less than an 
hour. 

Her husband was still absent; Mrs. Hamilton had gone 
out shopping; only Louise was on the watch. But how 
was Louise's mistress to know that? 



•^10 



estella's husband. 



IH 



** There is a secret here," Louise shrewdly said to her 
self — *' a secret money is to be made of. I will watcb 
little Sly Boots. She will go out some time to meet thip 
man who sent her the note.'' 

Louise bad her reward. A quarter past three, the door 
of Mi". Bartram's room opened, and Mrs. Bartram, in a 
dark hpt and mantle, and closely veiled, glided forth. 

The girl waited until she had nearly gained the corner 
of the street; then she, too, veiled and cloaiicd, glided 
from the area and followed. 

Estella walked all the way to Union Square. The city 
clocks were just chiming four as she reached it, and the 
first person she beheld was Eoysifcen Darrell, louiiguig on a 
bench, smoking a cigar, indolently watching the passers 
by, and looking like a Saxon king, with the afternoon sun- 
shine glinting on his leonine hair and beard and brilliani 
azure eyes. 

He flung away his cigar, and started up to meet Estella, 
holding out his hand, with a triumphant smile that showed 
every glittering white tooth. He knew the slender, girlish 
figure, despite the long, disguising mantle and the pallid 
young face — despite the close blue veil. 

** 1 thought you would come, Mrs. Bartram," he said,, 
coolly; " doubly Mrs. Bartram, since two lucky fellow<>. 
of that name claim you as their dear little wife. Bj 
George! you're an out-and-out modern heroine, Estella. 
They all commit bigamy in the novels, nowadays, and the 
first husband's sure to turn up. I thought it would give 
you a staggerer when you saw me last night after taking 
it for granted all these months that my bones were bleach- 
ing at the bottom of the cursed Irish Sea. Well, 1 had a 
narrow escape. The * Raven ' and all on board — poor 
devils — went to Davy Jones, Oarlotta among the rest. 
But a fellow born to be hanged — you know the pleasant old 
proverb, eh? Come, let's sit down, Essie; here's a retired 
nook, and no one is likely to recognize you through that 
blue screen." 

She sunk upon the bench — literally, she was unable to 
stand. Physically and mentally she was worn out — her 
very lips were the pallid blue of death. 

She was all alone— a poor, little, snared bird in the net 
of the fowler — a helpless waif, drifted about at the mercy 
of every tide, with no friend to turn to for counsel and 



estella's husband. 



211 



>dvioe. She sat, with great, piteous brown 6368 fixed m 
anutterable dread on this reckless man's face. 

He took out another cigar, as he seated himself near her, 
and held it up. 

** May I? he said. "I can talk ever so much better 
when I smoke, Essie. So you see, my dear little girl, 
Roysten Danell, the husband you run away from so 
cleverly, whom you iried to poison on his wedding-night— 
ah, that was a shabby trick, Estella — turns up again, nut 
Koysten Darrell, but Robert Bartrani — Robert the Devil. 
Upon my word, you might have knocked me over with a 
feather, when, coming home from that luckless voyage, I 
found out my old Uncle Wylder was dead and done tor — 
Alwyn, the favorite, disinherited, and Robert, the scape- 

frace, the black sheep, made heir. And the next news 1 
ear is that Alwyn is married — has married an heiress, a 
little girl from Chelsea, name Estella Mallory. 1 didn't 
flint, Essie; and that was saying a good deal for my 
iierves." 

He laughed, puffing away vigorously at his cigar; and 
/Cstella sat, with both hands pressed hard together in her 
hp, listening in a silent trance of unspeakable dread. 

** That was over four months ago; Estella; and why did 
I not come forward at once, you ask, to claim my own? 
Well, for no better reason, my dear, than that it did not 
Buit my humor. 1 made my case clear to old Parchment, 
the lawyer — got my pockets replenished — took life easy, and 
bided my time. I run down to Fisher's Folly, and Peter 
♦T)ld me about your adoption by the late Miss Mallory, and 
vour romantic marriage with Alwyn. What did he marry 
Jou for, Essie — love or money?" 

Still mute, she sat drinking in every word, but totally 
unable to utter a syllable. 

'* You're a pretty little thing enough, Essie," run on 
Mr. Robert Bartram, " but you're by no means the radiant 
beauty Mrs. Rutherford is, and these painter chaps always 
CO in for no end of good looks. He was disinherited and 
ae was jilted, and you are an heiress, and he marries you. 
Not very flattering is it, Essie? You had better have 
stuck to 7ne.*' 

Still no reply. Terrified, bewildered — all words refused 
'x> come. She sat like a little dark statue, waiting for her 
loom. 



'i 



H 



wX2 



EBTELLA'S HIHFUND. 



** And he loves her yet,** went on her morcileaa oom- 
^nioQ — ** that little bluuk-eyedenchantreHS — and she lovei 
nim; und^myfaithl if they lion^t make a moonlight flitting 
of it in the end, 1 bIiuII be more Hiirprised than i have been 
by anything that has hupponcd yet. Don't give him the 
€bauce, Estella — leave him before ho leaves you. Return 
to your first and rightful spouse, who is willing to over- 
looK the past, and take the bride who tried to poison him 
back to his bearL** 

** I never tried to poison you,** Estela said at last with 
a sort of sobbing cry. " You know I meant it for myself! 
Oh, I wish — 1 wish 1 had drunk it that night, and ended 
my misery at once!*' 

** Then my handsome cousin makes his little wife none 
too ha|ipy? 1 thought as much. Come, then, Estella, 
leave him, return to your rightful husband, give him the 
go-by — take your revenge — let him lose wife and fortune 
mt one fell swoop.*' 

" I am no wife of yoursl'* ihe girl cried, passionately; 
•* I never was, lloysten Darrell! 1 will never speak to you 
^never look upon your face again I I will go straight home 
from this, and tell my husband everything. ** 

" Do,** said the young man, coolly, ** and when he turns 
you out of doors, with hatred, and scorn, and race, return 
to me. 1 don*t set up to be a Christian, but in this case I 
Mm ready to obey the Scriptural injunction, and forgive 
seventy times seven; for the instant you tell him you are 
my wife — and that is what you must tell, Essie, if you 
speak the truth — he will turn you out, neck and crop. 1 
know my Cousin Alwvn, you see, my dear, and 1 know the 
Bartram pride, which, thank the gods, 1 have none of. 
He will cast you o£t, glad of an excuse, and he will go to 
the divine Leonie for consolation, and — will get it *' 

She uttered a low cry of misery and despair. 

" What shall I do?** she said—" what shall I do?** 

** I will tell you,** said Robert Bartram, flinging away 
his cigar. ** I feel for you, Essie — upon my soul I do. 
You love this black-a-vised cousin of mine ten thousand 
times more than he deserves, and he doesn't care as much 
for you as I do for the ashes of this smoked-out ci^rar. 
Look here, now, I'm not your enemy, and I'll keep your 
flecret He's in the dark; let him stay there. Keep th« 
fltory of the past to yourself, and I will do the same.'^ 



estella's husband. 



218 



But to his sarpriee, Estolla started to hor foet, her 
jiale cheeks llushiug, her brown eyes kiiidliug with sudden 
lire. 

" Nol" she said. ** 1 have deceived him too long — I 
will deceive him no longer! Let the consequences be what 
they may, he shall know all. Let tim cast mei off if he 
will — 1 can hardly bo more miserable than 1 am now, and, 
at least, my conscience will be at rest. I will tell him all, 
uirul ho shall judge between us. I am no wife of yours, 
«-j you well know, Koysten Darrell." 

The ex-captain of the '* Kaven '* shrugged his broad 
shoulders. 

" As I do 7iot know — you are my wife, and I can prove it 
Do as you please, Mrs. Uobert Bartram — for that is your 
r\unu^ — but as surely as you tell, so surely will I claim you 
Hiid take you, but it you will not spare you»*self, why should 
1 be a fool? Go home; tell Alwyn liartram; he will send for 
me. I have proofs of our marriage no court of justice MpH 
dispute. The clergyman who married us still lives at Ko^- 
iedge — so do the witnesses — so does Peter Fisher; and here 
in my pockets is our license and certificate. Go and tell 
him — the sooner the better — for within the hour I carry 
you off, my lawful, wedded wife. Good-evening to you, 
Mrs. Bartram — 1 dine at five. For the present we must 
j^art, but to-morrow 1 trust to take you to my arms, to 
lose you no more." 

He raised his hat, made her a courtly bow, a diabolical 
hmile of derision lighting his sunburned, hand some face 
and glittering sapphire eyes; then he was gone, and be- 
wildered Estella was alone. 

A gentleman passing, stopped suddenly to look at her; 
went on, stopped again, and looked back. He had caught 
the last words; he had seen her face through the veil; he 
had even heard the name pronounced, and yet he could 
scarcely believe his eyes and ears. It was Mr. Waldron, 
and he had recognized the lost heir, Robtrt Bartram, at a 
glance. 

** Can that be Estella Bartram?" he said, to himself — 
** can it be?" 

He stopped again, this time to see the slender figure flit 
away, and vanish in the November dusk. 

** What the deuce is she doing here, and with Robert 
Bartram? and what did Robert Bartram mean oy those 



I'-i 



if! 



^u 



istella's husband. 



!ii 



i ist words, * take her to his arms to lose her no more? 
u ind she such a little^ demure puss, too! Neither man nor 
\;oman was ever the better for knowing too much of that 
reckless scapegrace, and we all took little Essie for a sort of 
wedded St. Agues! And now, what would Alwyn Bartram 
say — Alwyn Bartram, as proud as the demon and as jealous 
as a Turk?" 

*' Halloo, Waldron!" called a familiar voice out of the 
gloaming, and a gloved hand fell lightly on his shoulder; 
*' moralizing in Union Square, like Hervey among the 
Tombs? What is the meaning of that mystified far 3?" 

And Mr. Waldron looked up, and into the smiling face 
of Estella's husband. 



CHAPTER XXIIl. 

ROBERT BARTRAM 'S REVENGE. 

" Did you meet your cousin?" was the first qnestion 
Mr. Waldron asked. 

Alwyn Bartram linked his arm through that of his 
•kriend, and walked him ofi briskly. 

" Come, step out! I go to an aristocratic symposium 
wo-night, and time wears apace. Did I meet Robert Le 
.Diable? Yes at the other entrance of the square. Ban^ 
Jie fellow! why couldn't he wait another month, before 
turning up? Truly that wise old saw, ' There is many a 
Jip — ' was never more strikingly verified. It was like the 
entrance of the * Marble Guest ' in the opera." 

He laughed lightly, but his dark brows contracted. Far 
more than he had felt it a year ago, he felt the loss of his 
uncle's fortune now. To be a dependant upon the bounty 
of his poor little unloved wife was unutterably galling to 
his proud spirit. 

" How is Mrs. Bartram?" Mr. Waldron inquired, with a 
queer, sidelong look; " quite recovered from her fainting 
fit, 1 trust?" 

** I trust so," carelessly. '*1 have not seen her since 
©arly morning. She is a nervous, hysterical little thing — 
a trifle upsets her. I dare say she took Robert Bartram 
*oraghost." 

** She never knew him before, did she?" 

*' Knew him!" Alwyn stared broadly. ** My dear f el- 



i ! 



ESTEJ l.A S HUSUAND. 



21tt 



1 



low, of course not. How could Essie know that reckless 
ne'er-do-well? Why do you ask?" 

** I beg your pardon/' Mr. Waldron said, a trifle eff 
barrassed, " 1 saw him talking to a lady just now in Union 
Square, and 1 give you my word, Bartram, 1 took it to be 
you wife at first. But she was closely veiled, and no 
doubt 1 was mistaken.'* 

* * Yes, " responded Mr. Bartram, in a tone of calm con- 
viction, " you were mistaken. Estella never saw my 
graceless relative until last night, and is never likely to Be« 
him again." 

Mx. Waldron favored his companion with a second queer, 
sidelong look. He had his own opinion about that. 

*' Is the French notion that all husbands are made to b** 
duped true, then, after all?" he thought. ** Can even 
little Mistress Innocence pull the wool over the eyes of her 
sharp-eyed lord? That was Estella who sat there, keeping 
an appointment with Eeckless Robert, and if I owned a 
wife, by George! he's the last fellow alive I'd want her to 
be on speaking terms with." Then, aloud: ** So you stiU 
adhere to your original resolution, Bartram, and g* 
abroad?" 

** At once. To-morrow I go to Philadelphia, where I 
will possibly remain over a week; by the same token, od« 
is never too fit for traveling after a supper at Porte Cray- 
on's rooms. Will you show, Waldron?' 

** For an hour. I go to the Rutherford ' At Home ' t(- 
night — this is Thursday evening, you know. You nevLr 
appear at those grand crushes now?" 

No," replied Mr. Bartram, moodily, ** and never wil;. 
I have had enough of the peerless Leonie. Who is the late^il 
victim?" 

" That handsome Austrian diplomat from Washington 
— the Marquis of something — I forget the name — terribly 
•rack- jaw, though. He knew her uncle, the Count De 
Montreuil, in Paris, and struck up an intimacy at once on 
the strength of that knowledge. They are going the pace 
faster than Madame Leonie ever went it before. We out- 
siders find the game matchless fun, particularly when old 
Rutherford is scowling on. I fancy the little Rutherfori 
don't care a fillip for the Austrian, but she is losing 
another victim for whom she does care, and grows wild and 
iesperate. Poor little girl! 1 think she doesn't take 



f :■ ; ( 



H 1 



■!■ i 



M't 



1 ;! I 



!i Y ■■■■■ 






St^i 



Hfij 



216 



estella's husband. 



kinclly to the gilded matrimonial fetters. Le feu n$ vant 
»os~-the what's its name, you know. Do we part here? 
Woil, (dlons — we meet the captains at the citadel. I'll say 
good-bye and hcoi voyage, at Porte Crayon's reuinon.*' 

The two men parted. Alwyn Bartram reached home not 
five minutes after his wife, and ran up at once to his 
dressing-room. The frosty ^November night, all sparkling 
with keen stars hung over the gaslit city long before his 
toilet was made, lie drew on his hat and loose overcoat, 
and ran down-stairs, pulling on his gloves, looking, as he 
always looked, elegant and handsome enough for a prince. 
The drawing-room door stood wide — the gaslight poured 
down its soft, abundant radiance, and standing alone in a 
pink dinner-dress, he saw his pale little wife. He stopped 
at once, and came in. 

** Ah, Essie," he said, kindly, '* better, I see? You and 
Mrs. Hamilton will not wait dinner this evening; I dine 
out. And by the by don't sit up for me. I will probably 
return late. Wakeful nights don't agree with you, my 
pale little girl. Your cheeks are whiter than the japonicas 
m your hair. Go to bed early, and so to sleep, and as I 
will most likely be off in the morning before you are up, I 
will say good-bye now. Take care of yourself, and grow 
a trifle less pallid and anxious-looking oefore I return. 1 
will be back from Philadelphia in a week." 

He kissed one of the colorless cheeks — the cold, careless 
kiss he always gave his wife. Then, before she could utter 
a word, he was gone. 

Mrs. Hamilton dined alone that evening. Mrs. Bar- 
tram, after taking the trouble to dress, did not even make 
a pretense of dining. She ascended to her room, and shut 
herself in, and all the long, lonely hours of that sleepless 
night she did battle with the supreme sorrow of her life 
alone. 

Mr. Bartram returned as gas-lamps and twinkling stars 
were waxing dim in heaven and earth. He had barely 
time to snatch an hour's sleep in his dressing-room, don 
traveling-gear, order a cup of coffee and a hack, and start 
for the railway. He made no attempt to see Estella, and 
she, poor worn-out child, had but just dropped into the 
deep sleep of utter weariness, half an hour before his re- 
turn. 



'} 



estella's husband. 



217 



Mr. Robert Bartram called in the course of the day, and 
sent up his card to the mistress of the house. 

She had but just breakfasted — pale and heavy-eyed, with 
her wan little face whiter than the Christmas snows. 

It was Louise who brought up the card, and a verbal 
message: 

** He says he has something most particular to say to 
you, madame. He is waiting in the drawing-room. *' 

Estella went down. Timid as a fawn, with no self-re- 
liance, with nc» one to look to for counsel or advice, not 
the least in the world strong-minded, what could she do? 
What was she, frail little reed, to cope with this giant oak? 

** I thought you would come,'' Eobert Bartram said, 
with his glittering smile; "it is your best policy, Essie. 
Keep friends with me, my dear little girl, and all will go 
t)n velvet. So mon mari went to the City of Brotherly 
Love, bright and early this morning, and without discov- 
ering his little Essie had been to Union Square yesterday 
ftfternoon? Then you found second thoughts best, and 
didn't tell, after all?" 

*' I did not tell, because I could not," Estella replied, 
the mournful brown eyes meeting the mocking blue ones. 
** I had no opportunity. But upon his return he shall 
know all." 

" Then, by Jove! I had better get my pistol hand in 
practice at once. How is he, Essie — this second husband 
of yours — a crack shot? There'll be a duel as sure as your 
name is Estella, and I'll wing him if 1 can." 

The brown eyes dilated wild and wide — the pale lips 

garted — the colorless cheeks grew livid with a new terror, 
he had never thought of that, and what more likely? In 
all her novels they fought duels for less than this, and 
who was to tell her the romantic age of duelling had passed 
away? 

*' No!" she gasped. ** A duel? Oh, no, no, no! Not 
for ten thousand worlds!" 

" Well, it shall be just as you please, Estella, of course; 
J don't care. It will not be my first time out, by long 
, odds; but one don't care to shoot one's cousin. Blood's 
V 7.hicker than water, thfey say, and Alwyn, poor devil, never 
did me any great harm. You start for Europe, they tell 
me, immediately upon his return. Why not keep your 
l/ttle secret till the * vasty deep ' rolls between us? I 










II 



zis 



estelia's husband. 



ison't care, I repeat^ but for your sake^ you know. Once 
Aftifely on shipboard, make a clean breast of it, if you like, 
aad — who knows — the excitement of the story may cure a 
fit of sea-sickness." 

She covered her face with her hands, and broke out into 
hysterical sobbing. She wanted to do right so much — to 
tell all — and she dared not — she dared not! She was 
hemmed in on every side — utterly in the toils I 

*' Don't cry, Essie!" Robert Bartram said, a little 
touched. " It's hard on you, I allow, but, after all, what 
he doesn't know can't harm him. Keep your secret for- 
'^ver, if you please; I sha'n't peach. I own Alwyn Bartram 
more than one grudge, but I don't bear malice. We 
'»^on*t tell him, and he'll never know you were once my 
wife," 

He stopped — the door had creaked. Quick as lightning 
T'iashes she had flung it wide, and discovered Mrs. Hamil- 
ton. She started back, pale with guilt. 

*' Come in, madame," said Robert Bartram, with im- 
perturbable sang froid; you'll catch cold, airing your ears 
ut key-holes. My dear Mrs. Bartram, this lady has been 
listening to our conversation. If there is any part of it she 
did not overhear, perh?ips you will kindly repeat it. For 
myself I have not time. G ood-af ternoon, mesdames, both !" 

** I beg your pardon, Mr. Bartram!" said Mrs. Hamil- 
ton, drawing herself up stiffly. ** 1 am not accustomed to 
^lay the eavesdropper, or being insulted by the accusation. 
I discovered this nota on the floor of Mrs. Bartram^s cham- 
■|i>er, and came here at unce to restore it. I rapped, but 
your conversation was too absorbing, apparently, to permit 
you to hear me. Here it is, Mrs. Bartram— excuse me 
for interrupting your tete-a-tete^ and permit me to with- 
draw without bringing it to an untimely end. " 

Her dull little eyes gleamed vindictively. Estella, white 
and frightened, held out her hand for the crumpled paper, 
and uttered a low cry as she received Robert Bartram's 
note. He, too, recognized it at the same instant. 

" Ah!" he said, ** culpably careless of you, Mrs. Alwyn 
-Bartram, to leave your billet-doux knocking about in this 
maniaer. You have cast your eye over it, have you not, 
»lear madame? How do you like the style of composition?" 

**I disdain to reply!" Mrs. Hamilton said, scornfully, 
•wweepin^ out of the room. ** It is quite in keeping with 



'1 ' B 1 1 



»o. 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



Sl» 



all I have ever heard of Mr. Robert Bartram to insult n 
lady!" 

He held the door open for her to pass out, with a smil 
ing bovr. Then he shut it, and looked at Estella. 

** You have put your foot in it, Essie,'* said Robert Bar- 
tram, solemnly; " the game's up! Tiiat old cantankerous 
catamount has read every word. Put the note in the fire 
and deny all black, when Alwyn returns, and never be so 
foolish as to keep tell-tale documents loose about you again. " 

He turned as he spoke and strode out of the room. And 
Estella cowered down, her face hidden in her hands, lost in 
a trance of shame, and misery, and despair. 

Mrs. Hamilton, with flashing eyes, and malignantly com- 
pressed mouth, walked straight from the drawing-room *« 
her own apartment to begin her work of mischief. 

Robert Bartram was right — Mrs. Hamilton had over^ 
heard, and the game was up. Her fa-^" was full of vin- 
dictive triumph, as she drew the writing materials before 
her, and sat down to indite an epistle to Mr. Alwyn Bar- 
tram: 

New York, Dec. 8, 18— 

" Dear Mr. Bartram, — If your business will permit* 
you in any way, I really wish you would make all possible 
haste back home. Circumstances of a liiost mysterious, 
most startling, most painful nature, have transpired sinc(v 
your departure. I feel it my painful duty— sorely against 
my inclination, I assure you — to report those circum- 
stances now. 

" Were you aware, dear Mr. Bartram, that your wife 
and your cousin, Robert were old friends? Somethingf 
more than friends, 1 greatly fear from all I have heard and 
seen of late, and exceedingly anxious to keep the fact of 
that old friendship from you — you, of all people alive, who 
should knowevery antecedent of your wife. He has writ- 
ten to her — she has met him by appointment in Union 
Square. He comes here, and holds long, private conver- 
sations with her, and — but perhaps 1 had better detail facts 
as the facts occurred. 

*' You will recollect, then, that on the first night of 
Mr. Robert Bartram 's most unlooked-for appearance, you** 
wife fainted dead away at sight of him. We attributed i 
at the time to her hypersensitive nerves, and pitied hei.' 
accordingly. Alas! dear Mr. Bartram, I fear somethinf* 



J^,[' 





390 



estella's husband. 



far worse caused that fainting fit. Mr. R. B. took no 
notice on the occasion, appareuLiy, but before leaving, his 
sharp eyes signaled out Louise, and he bribed her to de- 
liver a note to her wiistress, which hi had, already preparei^, 
in his pocket. You see by this that he expected to meet 
her. Louise, 1 regret to say, like most of her class, proved 
corruptible — took the bribe and delivered the note. Mrd. 
Bartram received it with much agitation, read it, and by 
some strange infatuation did not destroy it. That after- 
noon, closely veiled and plainly dressed, she went out, on 
loot and alone. Louise, scenting a secret, followed her, saw 
her enter Union Square, and meet Mr. K. B. They seated 
themselves in a quiet corner, and indulged in a long talk. 
Mr. R. B., Louise says, seemed insolently familiar, laughed 
and smoked through the whole interview, while Mrs. Bar- 
tram cried behind her veil, and looked frightened and dis- 
tressed. They parted about dusk, and the girl says you 
barely missed encountering them, for you passed her, with 
your friend, Mr. Waldron, a few minutes after they sepa- 
rated. Next morning you left for Philadelphia. And now 
comes the most painful part of my painful story. To-day 
while arranging some trifles in Mrs. Bartram 's chamber I 
found a crumpled paper on the floor. Almost unconsciously 
1 picked it up and glanced over it. Judge of my horror to 
find it the note delivered to Louise by R. B., insolently 
familiar in tone, and signed Roysten Darrell, My first 
impulse was to give it to Mrs. B. and say nothing more 
about it; but upon second thoughts I found such a course 
would be basest injustice and ingratitude to yoti, my kind 
f riepd and employer. I sat down and copied it — that copy 
please find inclosed. I can not comprehend its strange 
insinuations; perhaps you can do so. Having copied it, I 
took the original document in my hand and went to look 
ior your wife to return it. Louise met me, and informed 
me with a meaning smile, she was in the drawing-room, 
entertaining Mr. 3&. B. I knocked at the door; they did 
not hear me. I knocked again; still they were so absorbed 
in conversation that it was unheeded. 1 turned the han- 
dle to enter. As I did so, these words spoken by Mr. R. 
B. reached me plainly: 

** * I owe Alwyn more than one old grudge, but I don't 
bear malice. We won't tell him, and he^U never knotif 
you were once my wife. 



^j 






estella's husband. 



S3V 



i 



f 



** I stood stunned. At the same instant the man's sharp 
eyes saw me; he sprung up, and addressed me with inse* 
lent insults. His words left me but one dignified alteruV' 
tive. 1 passed from the room, came straight to my own* 
and sat down to write this. 

** Now, dear Mr. Bertram, 1 earnestly trust you will not 
be offended with me. 1 am doing what 1 feel my duty. 
Come back, I entreat — come back at once, before this 
dreadful scandal becomes public. There is some terrible 
mystery to be revealed; for pity's sake come back and find 
it out. il, B, is the most vicious and unprincipled of men 
— no fitting acquaintance for any pure wife or maiden. 
Come back, I implore you, and forbid him the house. 
*' Faithfully yours, 

" Henrietta Hamilton." 

Mrs. Hamilton's malicious old face flowed with triumph ' 
ant malice as she folded and directed this precious letter. 

** I think 1 hnve paid you out, Mr. Robert Bartram; and 
as for you, my spotless little dove from Massachusetts, 
we'll see whether you are any more spotless than your 
neighbors, after all." 

The housekeeper posted her letter, and prepared to meet 
Mrs. Bartram with her Judas smile and treacherous, caress« 
ing voice. But Estella kept her room all next day, too 
utterly heart-sick and miserable to meet any one. 

On the second day, Bobert Bartram called, but Estella 
refused to see him. He smiled coolly as Louise delivered the 
message, took out his pocket book, scribbled a line or two 
in pencil, and handed it to the girl. 

"Give Mrs. Bartram that," he said, "and tell her I 
will call again to-morrow eve?:mg. " 

Louise took up the note, untwisting it by the way, and 
making herself mistress of its brief contents: 

* ' I must see you before A. returns. It is highly im- 

r)rtant Don't plead illness, and come down when next 
call." 

** He has her in his power," thought Louise, " or he 
never would write like that. She will see him to-morrof ' 
for certain." 

Louise was correct in her surmise. When, late the fol- 
lowing afternoon, R obert Bartram reappeared, he wa^ 



•' '; 



\ { 



i I 



222 



estella's husband. 



ushered at cnce into the ...wing-room, and Estella, pallid 
and wan as a spirit, glided in after him, wearing still a 
loose, white morning-robe. 

The white cheeks, the hollow, mournful brown eyes, the 
dark circles beneath them, told their own sad story of 
** tears at night instead of slumber.'* 

** Sorry to see you looking so poorly, Essie," Hobert 
Bartram said, in his cool way. " The fellow isn't worth 
breaking your heart over. If ho cared for you, now! but 
bah! that black-eyed little houri is more to him than a 
ship-load of pale Estellas. Let the beggar go, and take 
up with 7)26 again. I'm the richer man, and the better- 
looking man of the two; and, bv Jove! I've a far better 
right to you than he has, as you know." 

His blue eyes glittered with devilish malignity as he ut- 
tered the words; for in the half -open door- way he had 
caught sight of a tall, dark figure, standing motionless, 
listening to every word. 

** Come, Estella," he said, encircling her waist sudden- 
ly with his arm. *' You don't really care for Alwyn Bar- 
tram, you know, and you do care for me. Then leave him 
forever and come with me. " 

She broke from him with a loud, wild cry — a cry so full 
of horror and despair that it haunted him to his dying 
day. 

The dark figure had strode forward and confronted them. 
There before her, pale as death, stern as doom, stood Al' 
wyn, her husband! 



J 1 



CHAPTER XXIV. 



THE SECOND FLIGHT 



A second's dead silence — Alwyn Bartram, white to the 
very lips with a horror too intense for words, Robert Bar- 
tram with his insolent, defiant smile, his glittering triumph- 
ant, azure eyes, and Estella numb — stone still — ghastly as 
death. 

Robert Bartram was the first to speak. 

** My good cousin," he said, his diabolical smile at its 
brightest, " this is an astonisher! Haven't you returned 
from Philadelphia with embarrassing suddeuess? 1 give 
you my word, we no more expected to see you — this lady 



BSTELLA S HL'SBAND. 



228 



gind 1 — than the Marble Guest in * Don Giovanni. * I hope 
^ou haven't been listening — our conversation was not in- 
tended for other ears than our own." 

He looked full in his cousin's eyes as he spoke, his own 
gleaming like blue flame. The wicked, brilliant eyes never 
faded — his arm still clasped the benumbed, unconscious 
Estella. 

*' Release my wife,*' were Alwyn Bartram's first words, 
spoken in a dull, thick voice; '* stand off, Ilobert Bartram, 
and let her go, or by the eternal Heaven, I'll shoot you like 
a dog!" 

He thrust his hand into the breast-pocket of his coat and 
drew forth a revolver. At its first sharp click, the ex-cap- 
tain of the '* Raven," as daring and reckless a bruvoas ever 
*.rod the pirate's quarter-deck, dropped his arm from the 
slender waist, as though it were red not. There was that 
in the livid face and dark, deadly eyes of his cousin Alwyn 
that told him he would keep his word. 

** So," said Robert Bartram, with a short laugh, *' we 
go fast, my friend! I*m not afraid of you, nor your six- 
shooter, dear old boy; but pistol practice in the presence 
of a lady is not to be thought of. Put up your ugly little 
toy, Alwyn — you'll frighten Essie into fits, and we can 
some to an amicable understanding without its interven- 
tion. Put it up, and don't glower upon us in that dia- 
')olical way. Take things easy if you can, and tell us how 
you came to drop upon us here like an avenging angel, 
when we took you to be safely located in the pleasant City 
of Brotherly Love?" 

Alwyn Bartram drew out a letter and handed it to the 
smiling speaker. 

** Did you write that?" he asked, in the same unnatural 
voice. 

" Did I write this? No, my Alwyn, I did not. My 
big, slap-dash fist isn't in the least like this spidery scrawl, 
a ' crabbed piece of penmanship,' as the fellow says in the 
play. But if you ask me if the composition is mine, I an- 
swer unhesitatingly, yes — and the signature, * Roysten Dar- 
cell.' Don't you know I dropped the Bartram when 1 
latarted in life on my own hook and became Captain Dar- 
rell, of the good brig * Raven?' Ah! those were merry 
days, when 1 was ' Reckless Roysten,' king of the quarter- 
deck, and master of a set of as bold spirits as ever scoured 



nil 



w 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAKB, 



,41 



^i?> 



i 



l>l|f| 



the high seas, or cheated the revenue of our country. I 
wrote a letter to little Essie here on the night of my ar- 
rival — the night she fainted, poor little girl — and this is a 
verbatim copy. Your worthy housekeeper sent you this, 
1 dare swear?" 

*' Tell me what it means." 

The two men stood eyine each other with faces of deadly 
meaning — Alwyn livid to the lips, Robert flushed, smiling, 
triumphant. 

** A long story, my Alwyn — too long to tell stand iug. 
Let us sit down comfortably — here's Essie, looking fit to 
drop. Estelia, my dear, don*t wear that frightened face 
*— no one shall hurt you. Come, here is a seat.*' 

In the height of his malignant victory, that paid off 
many an old score, he encircled her with his arm for the 
second time, and turned to lead her to a sofa. But sud- 
denly as lightning strikes, Alwyn Bartram's strong arm 
shot right out straight from the shoulder, and his clinched 
fist struck the bravo between the eyes with a dull thud 
bad to hear. It was a blow to fell an ox — it laid thd mus- 
cular captain of the '^ Haven " flat on the carpet, with a 
fall that shook the house, the red blood spouting high. 

It was the first thing to rouse Estelia from her dull tor- 
por of horror. With a wild, womanly scream at sight of 
the flowing blood, she fled to the door, and fell prone head- 
long on the threshold. 

The noise of the fall, the sound of that piercing scream, 
had brought the whole startled household, with Mrs. Ham- 
ilton at their head. The master of the house glanced over 
his shoulder, with a face of dark, changeless color. 

** Take her away," he said to his housekeeper; ** and 
for the rest of you begone." 

The housekeeper and the lady's-maid understood all at 
a glance. Between them they raised the insensible Es- 
telia, and in dead silence bore her away. As the drawing- 
room door closed again the fallen hero scrambled to his 
feet and dashed the flowing blood out of his blinded eyes. 

** You shall pay for this, Alwyn Bartram. Yes " — with 
a fearful oath — **you shall pay dearly for this! There 
are some things only heart's blood can wipe out, and a 
blow is one of them. 

^* And a disgraced wife another,'' the artist said, in a 
voice that never rose. ** I understand you, and you shall 



I 






■ '• 



E8TELLA S lIUflHAND. 



*4U 



it 



t( 



tXAwe your will. Now, then, let us underatand each otheri 
if we can. What is my wife to you?** 

'* Your wife?' Kobert liartiam retorted, with a sneer- 
ing laugh; "your wife, poor tool! Why, she has never 
been that for one short hour!" 

*'No? Then what is she?'* 

** Mine, Ahvyn Bartram — mine, my handsome artist 
cousin— mine, my fastidious hero of the puint-pot! Mine, 
long before siie ever saw you, and mine, by# all that is 
mighty above, she shall be again! Ah! Cairiar's wife must 
be above suspicion, must she? How does Caisur like it 
when he knows she is not his wife at all? It is paying 
you back in your own coin, my lady-killing Adonis — the 
pale, little Essie has tricked you as nicely as ever the be- 
witching Leonio Rutherford tricked the millionaire.** 
Will you explain?" 

And you will take it coolly, will you? I thought the 
Bartram blood was hotter than that. Yes, my dear Al- 
wyn, 1 will explain. Before ever Estella Mallory left 
Fisher's Folly and fled to her Chelsea aunt she was my 
wedded wife.'* 

** What proof have you of this?*' 

** You don't believe my word, then? Ev3ry proof that 
ever existed of a n^arriage. Here is the certificate duly 
dated and signed — read it for yourself. If that does not 
satisfy you, ask Estella, and see what she says. If that 
does not convince you, take a little journey to Hockledge; 
see the church register; have an interview with the clergy- 
man whose name is appended to that paper; exa.nine the 
witnesses; ask Estella's late guardian, Mr. Peter Fisher. 
If all that is not proof sufficient, then the devil is in it!" 

** Enough! Being your wife, as you say, why then did 
she leave you and fly to Helen Mallory?" 

** A girl's whim — she was young and silly, you know. 
It was dull for her there. Peter Fisher was a grim old 
tyrant — she and I quarreled — she was jealous of my 
little stewardess, Carlotta. She even tried to poison me — 
quite true, upon my honor; ask her if you don't believe 
ine, and I see you don't. And she would have done for 
me — killed me as dead as a door-nail — only she overdid it 
— doubled the dose, and the doctor and a beneficent stom- 
ach-pump came in time to save my precious life. The 
tittle fiendess got frightened and ran away — made out 

8 



• 



' 



Ml 



n2Q 



ESTELLA'S HUSnAND. 






f!i| mir. ... 

mim 



ohclsoa somohow and hor aunt, and 1 never set evod upoq 
her again until I saw her in this room m your wife, loi] 
look nlanlc, my worthy cousin, and no wonder. You took 
her for an angel, didn't you? and you find out she's the 
other thing. But the whole story's gospel facts, for all 
jhat, as she can tell you herself, if she chooses to speak the 
truth." 

*' Did Helen Mallory know all this?" 

"* Can't say; but 1 think it extremely likely. I'll do 
both her and Estella, though, the justice to say they 
thought me dead before she married you. Old looter 
Fisher sent them an account of the wreck of the ' Kuvon,* 
and the loss of all hands, so little Essie thought herself a 
widow when she became your wife. And now, Mr. Alwyn 
Bartram, you have heard the whole story, and when our 
little account is settled, the survivor can take his rival's 
tridow with the happy consciousness that she is all his own 
'it last. Good-evening to you — a friend of mine will wait 
upon you presently. They say — those others — the age of 
iueling is obsolete, but a Bartarm never shows the white 
leather. Go to Essie, let her deny, if she can, that she 
fras my wife before she was yours." 

He was gone — his felt hat pulled over his eyes — swagger- 
ing down the house steps. The friendly twilight and the 
broad brim of his hat hid that ugly gash between his eyes. 
He laughed, a wicked, demoniac laugh, as he gained the 
street. 

'* Who is vector noiu, Alwyn Bartram? Curled darling 
cf the gods, wiio wins at last? I think our old boyish scores 
and grudges are likely to be cleanly wiped out this time. 
You have crowed it over Robert the Devil many a long 
year, my handsome artist-cousin, but it is a long lane that 
has no turning. We have got to the turn, and I take your 
fortune, your wife, and your life at one fell swoop. I 
hate you, my elegant Alwyn — I have hated you for many 
a day, and if you leave our little rendezvous alive after 
that blow between the eyes, then Robert Bartram's good 
right hand and steady eye will have lost their cunning for 
the first time." 

Two hours after that, while yet Alwyn Bartram sat 
rtlone in the darkened drawing-room with his unutterably 
bitter thoughts, a tall, black-bearded gentleman, witn 
^<ery mu«h of Robert Bartram'a own dare-devil swagger. 



: 



K8TELLA*S ULSBAND. 



far* 



'?' 



was ushered in. Tho Horvunt lightud the gas, and the master 
of tho house arose to receive tlio visitor, with a face that 
seemed carved in stone. 

*' Ami if somothinj; horrid doesn't happen soon," re- 
marked Ihe servant vviio li^'hted the gas, returning to the 
k.tchen conchive, *' then I'm u Dutcliman. Master's got 
ten years older in one hour." 

The black-boarded stranger's visit was of tho briefest. 
> quarter of an hour, an' I tho street door closed behind 
him, his errand satisfactorily concluded. 

*' I will call upon your friend, Mr. Waldron, then, im- 
mediately," he said, with his blandest smile. " And the 
hour — seven to-morrow — the place, Weehawken. Don'^ 
trouble yourself in any way, my dear sir; Mr. Waldrou 
and I will arrange all minor matters. Good-night." 

It was Mr. Bartram who let his black-a-vised visitor out 
in person. As he closed the door, Mrs. Hamilton came 
sweeping along the hall, with a concerned face and a 
mighty swish of silk. The young man turned his rigid, 
death- white face to her. 

"■ 7.8 Mrs. Bartram better? Is she awake?** he asked, 

*^ Yes— to both questions. Dear Mr. Bartram, 1 have 
been so anxious to see you — so anxious to know whether I 
have done right or wrong in sending you that fatal letter. 
Believe me, 1 — " 

But he cut her short with an imperious wave of his hand* 

** That will do, madame — I understand you and your 
motives perfectly. Later we will find time to settle oup 
little account. Where will I find my — your mistress?" 

" In her dressing-room." 

He waited for no more. He ascended tho stairs aad 
went straight to the apartment named. Without ceremony 
he opened the door, and saw Estella on her knees, her face 
buried in the pillows of a lounge. She lifted her pallid, 
haggard face in speechless terror to the tall dark form 
and stony countenance of the husband she loved — the hus- 
band she had lost. 

** One word, Estella," he said, in a deep, concentrated 
voice, his dark eyes seeming to burn into her very soul-^ 
** Only one word, and the truth, if you can. Are yo' ' 
Robert Bartram's wife?" 

Sh« lifted her imploring hands with a piteous, hysterxi»l 
fiob. 



! 



1 

i' i 
. 1 

1 


1 








. If 







lllvil 



m 



I ')i. 



828 



estella's husband. 



" Alwyn!" she cried, ** for the dear Lord's sake—'* 
** Hush/' he interrupted, sternly; ** no more hysterNv 
—no more deceit. 1 have asked you for one word — 1 wUi 
hear no more. Were you ever married to Bobert Bartrant 
— ^yes or no?*' 

** ri^.y— but—" 

** That will do! Living or dead, I never want to look 
upon your wicked, treacherous face again!" 

With the merciless words— the mercilessly cruel words 
she might never forget to her dying day — he turned and 
left her — the bitter words of farewell; the last he was ever 
to address to her for many and many a weary year! With 
a low, long, wailing moan, the wretched girl nung herself 
down among the yielding pillows. 

" Oh, my God!" was her passionate cry, ** lot me die- 
let me die! What have I ever done that my life should lua 
all one long torture?" 

She lay there for hours. The night had fallen — tl^ 
cheerless December night. The snow fell and the wiiid 
blew; the fireless room grew icy cold. But she never 
stirred — the inward anguish dulled all sense of outwai^d 
suffering. 

** Oh, merciful Lord," her tortured, undisciplined hears 
cried, "" grant me a short life! My misery is greater than 
I can bear!" 

Morning broke— a dull December morning, lowering^ 
bleak, and overcast. With its first sickly dawn, Estella's 
husband left the house, entered a cab waiting at the door, 
and joined his friend Waldron. The order was " Wee- 
hawken Ferry," and the carriage whirled rapidly away 
through the fluttering snow and wailing wind. 

And the hours sped on, i .1 Estella never stirred. Worn 
out at last — worn out in body and mind, in heart and soij 
— the poor little girl- wife had fallen asleep, as condemned 
men have slept the hour before hanging. 

She woke with a start long past noon, for the duh, 
wintery afternoon was darkening already. She awoke and 
sat up, with a confused sense of voices in her ear. The 
door of her room was ajar, and the voices came from the 
passage without. 

** ^d I say it's a shame, ? nd a burning shame!" ex' 
claimed the indignant tones of the head house-maid, ** foi 
that old prying cat of a housekeeper to be there orderin| 



estella's husband. 



229 



us about as if she was mistress, and Mr. Bartram's own wif j 
knowing nothing about it I If poor Mr. Bartram dies — and 
goodness knows he looks like a dead man now — I wonde • 
how she'll ever face missis again?'* 

** Well," said kitchen damsel number two, ** 1 don' c 
know, of course, but they do say — Louise and them — that 
it is all missis' own fault. Master caught her a-kissing of 
Mr. Robert Bartram in the drawing-room last night, and 
master knocked him down, and Louise says they've been 
and fought a duel. Master never asked for missis, you 
know, Susan, when they carried him upstairs, and he was 
able to speak then. My opinion is, Mrs. Bartram ain't no 
better nor she'd oughter be. These sly ones never is. Still 
water runs deep." 

The girl stopped aghast, for there, before her, like » 
ghost new risen, stood her young mistress. 

**What is it, Susan?" she asked, hoarsely. ** Is Mr. 
Bartram hurt?" 

" Yes, ma'am — that is to say, no ma'am — at least not 
very badly, I hope," stammered the girl, recoiling. 

** Where is he?" 

** In the red room, ma'am; but, oh, if you please, yow 
are not to go there! Mrs. Hamilton told me the doctor 
ordered it " 

But Estella pushed her aside and went straight on, hex 
white face settling into rigid calm. The worst had come, 
then; her terrible fears were realized. In one instant of 
time the frightened, irresolute girl was changing into the 
resolute woman — the determined wife. 

She walked straight to the red room, the sumptuous 
guest-chamber of the house. She opened the closed door, 
and stood for a second or two in the threshold. 

The room was darkened. Around the stately bed were 
gathered the family doctor, Mr. Waldron and Mrs. Ham- 
nton. 

She closed the door, and came gliding forward, noiseless, 
colorless as a spirit, with wild, wide eyes. 

Mrs. Hamilton rose up, with a low, angry cry. 

** You here!" she said. ** This is no place for you. I 
told them to keep you away. Mr. Bartram is ill--dying, 
perhaps. Go!" 

"I will not go! If my husband is ill — is dying — my 
place is by his side. I will never leave it until he drives 



¥'' 



^y 



I- 1 

1 ' ! 



w 



230 



estella's husband. 



klHIl llli 



111 



me away himself. No earthly power shall make me! Do 
you go, Mrs. Hamilton, and give place to me, his wife I" 

The brown eyes lifted, and looked full, and straight, and 
dauntless into the astounded housekeeper's face. Then 
she bent over the bed, knelt down beside it, and kissed the 
death-cold face. Rigid, marble-cold, marble-white, Alwyn 
Bartram lay, the faint breath scarce stirring between the 
bloodless lips. 

** My love — my love!'* the girl murmured, softly; '* .1 
may kiss you now. Oh, my darling, if I might only dia 
for you!'* 

The inexpressible pathos of the few simple words wen*- 
straight to the hearts of the two men. But the house 
keeper's eyes blazed angrily. 

*' Will you allow this?'' she said, in a fierce whisper, 
" you, doctor — you, Mr. Waldron! You both know wha^' 
has transpired — what she has done. If Mr. Bartram dies, 
she is his murderess! How dare she come into the room?' 

** Hush!" exclaimed George Waldron, sternly. ** Her 
right is first and best, until the man whose wife she has 
been chooses to dismiss her. IShe shall stay; her claim 
here is sacred. She has been Alwyn Bartram's wife." 

Estella lifted her drooping face, and held out one slen 
der hand. 

** You are very good to me, Mr. Waldron. Some day \ 
will thank you; I can not now." 

The pale, tearless young face drooped again, and lay in 
one clay-cold hand of the man she loved. One whispered 
sentence more she spoke without looking up. 

" Will he die?" 

** I hope not — I believe not," answered the doctor, 
" with unceasing care and tender nursing; and he will 
have both noio, I know. Mrs. Hamilton, you need not 
resign your post, Mrs. Bartram is young and inexperienced; 
she will merely be assistant nurse." 

Half an hoiir later Mr. Waldron and the doctor left the 
darkened and hushed house together, and walked arm m. 
arm down the street. 

** That girl is the victim of some foul conspiracy on thr 
part of Eobert Bartram," George Waldron said, euphatic 
ally. "That fellow is cold-blooded enough and devilisl' 
enough for any earthly crime. If an angel were to de 
seend and tell me she was gliilty, I would tell that angel tf 



istella's husband. 



231 



^0 hang! Guilt never looked at mortal man out of such a 
pair of innocent^ sorrowful eyes as she lifted to me half 
An hour ago." 

" Alwyn Bartram, at least, believes in her guilt," said 
the doctor. ** He told me her own lips had confirmed it 
Poor little soul! she is little better than a child, and she 
always loved the fellow a thousand times better than he 
deserved. If he were not dying, or next door to it, 1 
would say it served him right. He has neglected that 

Eretty little wife from the first for that boid-faced beauty, 
leonie Rutherford. " 



«< 



What a sensation our little affair will create, to be 
sure!" Mr. Waldron said, lighting a cigar. ** The avenue 
will be more exercised over it than it has been for a month 
of Sundays. The two Bartrams will be the lions of the 
day. Pity one is too ill, after his bullet through the lungs, 
and the other too far fled to enjoy it. A duel in these 
days of prosaic humdrum is really refreshing — a step back- 
ward into the realms of romance. I told Alwyn Bartram, 
this morning that I thought he was an idiot for his pains, 
and 1 think so still. Fancy standing up at day dawn, a tar- 

?;et for Robert the Devil, getting a ball through his left 
ang, and all for — what?" 

*' He's a dangerous scoundrel, that Robert Bartram,*' 
tibserved the doctor. *' There was deadly murder in his 
eye this morning if ever it was in mortal man's. An 
inch lower, and that ball would have gone straight 
ihrough his cousin's heart. As it is, we'll bring him 
iound; that little wife will nurse him back to health if 
earthly woman can do it." 

" And get quietly divorced for her pains as soon as her 
idol recovers, you'll see," said George Waldron. '* And 
now, au revoir! What a catechism your patients will put 
you through, doctor, about this! I'll step up to-morrow 
morning and see how Bartram fares, poor devil! Until 
then—'' 

The two men parted to meet again next day by the bed- 
side of their mutual friend. They found the wounded man 
as death-like and motionless as ever, and Estella sitting 
alone In the room wan and worn as some little spirits of 
the moonlight. 

** So the head nurse deserts her post, and the little as* 



1 I 






232 



estella's husband. 



II 






iiiim I 



<» 



t( 



sistant has it all to herself/' observed the doctor, with a 
smile. ** I thought as much. Where is Mrs. Hamilton?" 
** Gone to bed." 
Have you sat up all night alone?" 

Only since two o'clock; I begged Mrs. Hamilton to 
retire. She was falling asleep in her chair." 

"Humph! And our patient? lint I suppose he has 
scarcely stirred. Well, it is fortunate for hiin lie has his 
devoted little wife to watch over him. I wouldn't give a 
fillip for his chance of existence left to the tender mercies 
of Mrs. Hamilton. His life lies in your sleepless care, 
Mrs. Bartram; see that you bring him round." 

Estella gave him a grateful glance out of her great, sor- 
rowful brown eyes, and stooping, kissed one of the coldj 
( if eless hands. 

*' I will do my best," she said, simply. ** I would die to 
save him an hour's pain." 

And so by the bedside of her unconscious husband Es- 
tella's days and nights were spent now. There never was 
A nurse half so devoted; she seemed to live without eating 
or sleeping; his every want was anticipated; the slightest 
direction of the physician was never forgotten. 

She grew thinner than a shadow, more bloodless than a 
ghost; out she never faltered at her post. Day-time and 
night-time you found her there, sleepless and unwearying. 

** She said she would die to save him," George Waldron 
exclaimed, ** and she is doing it now. She will save his 
Jif e, but she will kill herself. " 

The death-like stupor of the wounded man had passed, 
and fever and delirium set in. The handsome face was 
flushed burning red, the dark eyes wildly glittering, the 
wandering tongue running at random. 

And Estella's reward for all her sublime self-abnegation 
was to sit by that delirious sick-bed and hear the husband 
she idolized rave unceasingly of his lost idol. 

** Leonie! Leonie!" was the changeless burden of his 
'3ry. 

The present was a blank; his brief wedded life was blot- 
ted out; the happy days when Leonie De Montreuil was his 
plighted wife were lived over again. 

He mistook his pale, watchful wife for his brilliant, 
:'alse lady-love. He called her al' biie endearing names. He 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



233 



woald take his food, his drink, his medicine from no han^ 
but hers. 

** Love me, Leonie! Be true to me!" was his cry. ** Oif , 
my darJing, no one will ever love you again as 1 do!" 

And Mrs. Hamilton's malicious eyts would gleam tri- 
umphantly upon the tortured face of the devoted young 
wife, whose womanly martyrdom was so sublimely en- 
dured. 

*' When fever is in, truth is out," she said, spitefully, 
one day. "Pity he can not forget his only love!* 

But this phase passed, too, and life, and strength, and 
reason began to return to the wounded man. He opened 
his eyes one day after a long, healthful sleep, and fixed 
them full upon the face of Estella, no longer burning with 
fever, but calm md clear. An instant later, and she had 
shrunk away from sight, and Mrs. Hamilton was bendinpr 
over him in her place. 

" Water," he said, feebly. 

And the housekeeper held a cooling draught to his lips. 

*' I have been ill," he said, in the same faint tones 
" Have I been long — " 

" Nearly three weeks," Mrs. Hamilton answered, suave- 
ly. '* But you are quite out of danger now, dear Mr. Bar« 
tram. " 

** I've been in danger, then?" slowly. " I remember in 
alL And he — where is Robert Bartram?" 

** No one knows. He has fled." 

" And you have been my nurse all these weeks, Mra 
Hamilton, you alone?" 

The dark eyes looked full and steadily into hers, as he 
asked the question. 

** Certainly — 1 have been your nurse. It was the least 
I could do for my kind friend, surely." 

** And no one else? I thought 1 saw another face a mo- 
ment ago, Estella's." 

** All your imagination, dear Mr. Bartram," Mrs. Ham- 
ilton said, smoothly. *' But supposing you did see her, 
what then? Hers is surely the best right here." 

" She has no right here," Alwyn Bartram replied, 
slowly and steadily. ' * You must know that by this time, 
Mrs. Hamilton. No greater cheat or hypocrite ever lived 
than she has been to me. No poor fool was ever more 
egregiously duped than I have been duped by her. I will 



\% 



li 1 












i ! 






234 



estella's husbakd. 



never see her, never speak to her again while I livt. ] 
never loved her. I have good reason to hate her now. " 

Dead silence fell. The effort of speaking had exhausted 
him. Mrs. Hamilton glanced sideways at her victim- 
Even her hard woman's heart might afford to pity that vic- 
tim now. 

But Estella was cowering down on the floor, her face 
hidden in her hands, never speaking, never stirring. Like 
CfBsar, when her time came he could " cover her face and 
4ie with dignity." 

Alwyn Bartram spoke again. 

" Is she here?" he asked — " still in this house?" 

"She is." 

** Well, no one has a better right — the house is her own 
Only tell her from me to keep out of this room until ) 
am able to leave it. It is all hers, but I will linger beneath 
her roof no longer than I can help. 1 resign her and her 
fortune together — only tell her to keep out of my sight while 
1 must reiixain." 

"' She shall hear it," Mrs. Hamilton said, in a subdued 
tone. '* Pray don't excite yourself, Mr. Bartram. Don't 
talk any more. Try to sleep if you can." 

** If I can," he repeated, in a low, bitter voice. *' If k 
•ould sleep and never awake it would indeed be well." 

But he dropped asleep even with the words on his lips- 
And Mrs. Hamilton turned to the crouching figure on the 
floor, with a touch of compassion on her hard face. 

" You had better go, Mrs. Bartram, before he awakes 
again. In his present state the sight of you might bo 
fatal." 

She arose at once, and turned a face so awfully corpse-like 
— eyes so glazed and blinded — upon the housekeeper that 
the worthy woman recoiled from her as from an apparition. 

" Good Heaven! she looks as though she were in a fit. 
My dear Mrs. Bartram — " 

'* I am going," Estella said, hoarsely. ** I will never 
eome back." 

She staggered — literally staggered — from the room as 
shs spoke, grasping blindly at the objects in her way. She 
closed the door behind her, and went on to her own room. 
Not once had she looked at him on her way. 

The day wore on. As night fell, Mrs. Hamilton, fidgety 
and uneasy, went herself to Mrs. Bartram's room. The 



ebtella's husband. 



235 



ftoor was locked upon the inside. She rapped, and it was 
opened at once by Estella herself. 

** Dear Mrs. Bartram, 1 have been so anxious! I am 
glad to see you looking better than when you left ine. But 
you have eaten nothing hardly all day, and dinner is ready. 
Will you not come do'vn? *' 

** No; be good enough to excuse me, Mrs. Hamilton, and 
dine alone/' 

The door was closed and relocked. Mrs. Hamilton 
shrugged her broad shoulders, and descended with a very 
good appetite; and Estella, left alone, lighted the gas, drew 
writing materials before her, and, with a face fixed in 
etony calm and a hand that never faltered, she wrote these 
lines: 

" 1 heard all you said to Mrs. Hamilton — 1 was in the 
w)om at the time. You never loved me — you hate me now 
--living or dead, you never wish to look upon my wicked, 
sreacherous face again. Well, you never shall; be at rest, 
t will trouble you no more. To-night I leave you forever. 
,1. have only one word to say to you — the last I will ever say 
Xo you — J am innocent. You will not believe it — you 
k/iay never know the truth — but I loved you — 1 will love 
you to my dying day, and I am innocent. May the good 
God bless you and make you happy! I will pray for you 
us long as I live. 

** Estella." 

That was all. No tear fell upon the paper as she wrote; 
the inward anguish was too deep. She folded her note, 
gealed it, addressed it, then kneib down by her bed, and 
laid her poor, pale face thereon, as if she never cared o 
lift it again. 

The hours of the night wore away — the house grew very 
still. Long after midnight — so long that the first bleak 
gray of the December morning was lighting the black 
night sky — she lifted her head and arose. Her hat and man. 
tie lay near. She put them on, took up a little bundle she 
had made, and walked to the door. 

One backward glance she gave — one long, lingering hear!; • 
broken glance. 

*^ Good-bye," she said, " my pretty room, where I was 
once so happy!" 

She opened the door i^nd went out; the stillness of the 



ii 



'■ ■ ! [ 



-I 



m 



estella's husband. 



|lt*«»j'i 



^rave reigned. Noiselessly she flitted down the wide, car- 
peted stairway — uoisejossly she gained the front door— 
noiselessly she opened it, and faced the raw, bleak, wintery 
day dawn. An instant later, and it had closed behind her, 
and she was fluttering away, a lonely little waif in the bitter 
blast. 

For the second time Estella had fled — for the second 
time a desolate wanderer, wrecl^ed in the world. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

SWIFT RETRIBUTION". 

Mbs. Hamilton passed a very uneasy nir'it. Whether 
•: was remorse for the past, or apprehensic for the future, 
*^r a heavy dinner undigested, no one knows; but worrying 
breams made her pillow restless. The pale, sorrowful face 
<«.! Alwyn Bartram's wife haunted those restless slumbers 
like a reproachful ghost. Once she saw her, lying cold 
and still in her winding-sheet and coffin, and at her ap- 
proach the corpse had arisen, the large dark eyes had 
*)pened, and the livid lips parted in awful words. "** Look 
ji me I'* those dead lips said. '* I am what you have 
made me, Mrs. Hamilton!" and Mrs. Hamilton had started 
^p in boa in a panic of mortal apprehension, the cold 
4rops standing on her brow. It was broad morning — the 
lull December daylight filled the room. 

" Good Heaven!*' the housekeeper thought, ** if anything 
aas happened to that unfortunate little creature what will 
become of us? She looked last night like a galvanized 
corpse. 1 will go to her room at once.'* 

She threw on her dressing-gown, thrust her feet into 
slippers, and sought Estella's chamber. She tapped — there 
was no answer; she turned the handle — the door opened at 
once, and she went in. 

The chamber was empty — the bed had not been slept in 
all night. On the table lay the letter. Mrs. Hamilton 
ponnced upon it immediately, saw the address, and guessed 
the truth. 

"She has run away — that wretched child! What, in 
Heaven's name, will she be mad enough to do.'*" 

The gummed flap of the envelope was still wet. With- 
out an instant's hesitation Mr. Bartram's high-bred house- 
keeper opened it and read the letter from first to last. 



estella's husband. 



2»{ 



"Gonel" she thought, palpitating in utter dismay: 
•* tied! that grown-up child, as ignorant of the vice and 
misery of this great city as a new-born babe! Oh, what on 
earth will become of her? Mad |irl! and yet one can 
hardly blame her. I will take this letter to Alwyn Bar- 
tram at once. " 

She placed it in the envelope, closed it securely, and hur- 
ried into the sick man's room, her sallow complexion dea^ 
green with terror. 

The night-nurse was asleep at her post; the patient lay 
iride awake, his great, haggard, dark eyes looking unnat- 
urally lar and bright out of his pallid, shadowy face. 

'* xo .le awake, Mr. Bartram," the housekeeper said, 
approaching; ** not very long, I hope? How did you pass 
the night?'* 

** Much as usual," wearily. ** What haa happened^ 
Mrs. Hamilton? From whom is that letter?" 

** From your wife, I fear. 1 found it in her room this 
morning — the room deserted — the bed unslept in. I don't 
wish to alarm you, Mr. Bartram, but 1 greatly fear she is 
gone. " 

** Gone!" the large, dark eyes opened larger and darker. 
'* Gone!" he repeated, slowly; " gone where?" 

** Fled — run away — gone for good. 1 regret to tell you 
she was in this room yesterday, and overheard every word 
you said to me. She is highly sensitive, and that may 
nave — But if you feel strong enough, perhaps you had 
better read the letter. Doubtless it will explain. " 

She handed it to hiin, and he tore it open in fierce haste. 
An Instant, and he read it through. 

It was impossible for his death-white face to grow ^y 
whiter, but an awful, rigid change came over it H!e 
dropped the letter, and turned upon the woman, 

" When did you find this?" 

** Just now — this instant — 1 came directly here 1 have 
been uneasy about Mrs. Bartram all night — so uneasy I 
could not rest, and I went to her room the first thmg this 
morning. I found the room deserted, as 1 tell you, and this 
on the table. I feared something of the kind, Mr. Bartram. 
\ never saw such a look on any human face as I saw on hers 
last night — poor little soul!" 

There was real compassion ia the housekeeper's tone. 



I: 



?d8 



estella's husband. 



For the first time in her life, perhaps, she knew what ';> if9M 
to feel remorse. 

** The look on her face as 1 saw her last will haunt me 
to my dying day," she said, softly; " if the human heart 
am break, 1 think your words broke hers last night.'* 

" B'or God's sake, gol" Alwyn Bartram cried, hoarsely, 
passionately. ** Do you want to drive me mad? We will 
find her — we iiiust find her Go, I tell you— go!" 

*' I am going, sir," Mrs. Hamilton responded, with dig- 
nity. *' And here is your friend, Mr. Waldron — will you 
admit Jiitn ?" 

** He will admit me," Mr. Waldron said, very gravely, 
coming forward, " for I have news he will be glad to hear. 
Will you kindly leave us, Mrs. Hamilton?" 

Mrs. Hamilton looked curiously at him^ but his face was 
s;rave and impenetrable. 

*' News he will be glad to hear," she thought, sweeping 
out; " what can it be? Has he found the little runaway, 
and already?" 

Mr. Waldron bent over the bed, and looked at his friend. 
It was his first visit for over a week. A telegram had taken 
him suddenly out of town — he had only just returned, and 
still wore his traveling suit. 

** No better, Alwyn?" he said. '* You look almost 
worse than when I left. But I have news for you, old boy, 
that will heal every wound — great news — glorious news! I 
come to restore you a wife and a fortune!" 

Alwyn Bartram stared at him with wild, questioning 
eyes. The same idea flashed through his mind as through 
Mrs. Hamilton's — he had found Estella. But the fortune? 

** I have been out of town for the past week, Alwyn," 
he saH, taking a seat by the bedside; '* do you know where 
and at whose summons? You would never guess. At 
Robert Bartram's." 

Still Alwyn did not speak — he lay blankly gazing — blank- 
ly wondering. 

** And Robert Bartram is dead! Do you hear, Alwyn? — 
dead and buried! His earthly mischief is over at last." 

* * Dead !" — he lay d ully staring at his friend. * * Dead !" 
he repeated, in hopeless amaze. 

** Dead, poor fellow! One can pity the dead, you know 
and a terrible death, too. He was burned alive." 



estella's husband. 



2SI 



Alwyn Bartram uttered one faint exclamation of horror, 
then lay perfectly still — waiting. 

** 1 found him in Washington," Mr. Waldron said, rap- 
idly: " he made for the capital when he left hero. And 
his death was heroic enough — a tenement house in flames, 
a child forgotten in an upper room. You know what a 
reckless, impulsive fellow he always was — ho rushed through 
the flames and smoke to the rescue of the screaming child. 
Both perished — the burning roof fell upon them. The 
child was stone dead when drawn out from the flaming 
debris— Uohert Bartram was still alive. He lingered long 
•nough to telegraph for me — to do one act of justice befo;^ 
life left him. I saw him laid in the grave day before yeste*^ 
day, and hastened here at express speed with his dying d^ 
position. Alwyn Bartram, as soon as you are able, go dowx 
on your bended knees and ask your wife's pardon. She tk 
the most wronged and most innocent of women. " 

He looked for some expression of eagerness, of deligh);, 
but none came. The sick man's pallid face turned abso- 
lutely livid as he listened. He tried to speak, but only a 
dry, rattling sound came from his parched lips. 

" Here are the dead man's dying words — written by me 
— duly signed and witnessed — the last words he ever ut- 
tered. The deposition is brief; shall 1 read it aloud?" 

There was a faint answering motion ; the power of speech 
seemed paralyzed in Alwyn Bartram. 

Mr. Waldron drew a folded paper from his pocket, 
opened it at once, and began to read : 



ti 



When you see this, Alwyn Bartram," it abruptly began, 
'* 1 will be in my grave — beyond the reach of your pardon 
or your curse. The first I do not ask — the second I do not 
fear. 1 die as I have lived — dreading neither man nor 
devil -"Reckless Robert to the last. But I want to do one 
poor little girl an act of justice — the only mean or pitiful 
act of my life was wronging her. But it was to wreak venge- 
ance on you. I stood in your debt, my good cousin, for 
many an old grudge, and through her I wiped them out. 
The deed of a coward and a poltroon, was it not? I have 
been ashamed to look my own face in the glass ever since, 
by Jove! and 1 don't think I could rest easy in my grave 
Tvith my story untold. 
. ' Well, then, Alwyn. Estella is innocent — innocent as 



1^ 1 



■ 



rrrff. 



2iO 



E8TKLLA*8 HUSBAND. 






those angels our mothers told us about in the days lon^^ 
ago when we were iiuiocent, too. Slio never was my wife: 
never for a moment, 1 swear it I She alwavs feared anil 
deteBted me, and she lovod yon — you ungrateful beggarl 
with her whole good little heart, as no man alive that evei* 
J knew deserved to bo loved yet. 

" The way of it was this. Old Peter Fisher — hang h'lk, 
the miserly old screw — got a letter from Miss Helen 3Ial- 
lory, of Chelsea, saying that Estella's father had turned up 
— was a millionaire, lawfully wedded to her sister Estella, 
anxious to claim his daughter and heiress, and ready to pay 
all buck-standing debts contracted for her; come down 
like a prince, in fact. Old Peter Fisher sends for mo. 
* Look here, Roysten,^ says the old hypocrite — I was Roy 
sten Darrell, the smuggler captain, then — * let's make »» 
good thing of this. Let's marry Estella; then her husband 
claims his share of his rich father-in-law's wealth. You'i-e 
young and clever and good looking,* says Peter; * what's to 
hinder your marrying her, Roysten, my boy, and sharing the 
spoil with me?' ' Nothing,' says 1, ' but that she hates me 
like poison. She'll never do it, you'll see.' * We will make 
her,' says he; * it will go hard with us if you and I are not 
a match for one little girl. I'll make her marry you, or 
I'll know the reason why.' Well, 1 was willing; a wife 
more or less, seeing 1 had a couple of dozen already, made 
little odds to me. I was willing and 1 said so. Old Peter 
Fisher broke the news to Essie. As I said, there wa« 
the dickens to pay immediately. Essie protested sha 
wouldn't; she would cHe first, and so on. We didn't believe 
her, but, by George, she meant it! A chap there, in Rock- 
ledge — a friend of hers, who had never told his love but let 
concealment prey upon his damask cheek — brought her 
some books that evening. She told her story to him; told 
him she had no avenue of escape, and he took heart of 
grace, and proposed one immediately. Let her marry hirn 
to escape me. Well, she hated me; she rather liked him, 
poor imbecile! — she saw no other way out of her difficulties, 
and she consented. They arranged it all — they were to 
elope a few nights after, get married on the quiet, and 
snap their fingers at Peter Fisher and Roysten Darrell. 
Would you believe it? 1 was in hiding near by, and heard 
every word. The night arrived — dark and rainy — the car- 
riage was waiting for the brid«» and so was 1 — the other 



■STRLIJk S HUSBAND. 



241 



bridegroom was safely disposed of. Esiellu cuine, mis- 
took me in the dark for Dick Derwent, and — we were mar- 
ried! That is to say, one of my men, of a theatrinil turn, 
played parson, and performed the ceremony, and I drove 
Estella back to Fisher^s P'olly, and announctd myself as 
her husband! 

** Fancy the scene that followed. The amaze, the anger, 
the hysterics. The girl was spunky— all the powers of 
earth wouldn't compel her to own me for her Inusband. IL 
ended in her being locked up in the garret for her contu- 
macy by old Peter Fisher, and being frightened into fits by 
the rats. Then followed a brain fever — I went to sea; she 
had recovered when 1 came back, and I profjosed a second 
marriage, a public one; and she agreed on condition thfrf 
I would release Dick Derwent, whom we still held prisonei 
It was in very desperation she consented. AVe released ov<' 
unlucky captive, and, in desperation still, she tried N 
take her own life. She failed — she iled — she made or* 
Helen Mallory — told her story — had a second lit of illne/^s 
— received news upon her recovery that / was drovvned- 
met you, and what came after that you knovv. 

** There is the story. Why you did not hear it long as") 
is the only mystery; but it is certain the fault of tl- 
BGcrecy was the dead aunt's, not the niece's. Estella lov > 
you devotedly; is true to you as the needle of Jhe Nor/h 
Star. She met me in Union Square, poor, little, frigh* 
ened child! because she was afraid to refuse — because sl'o 
kncT not what to do for the best — because she thought tl < 
ceremony she had undergone with mo was a rcil one— b 
cause she feared what afterward occurred that we wouM 
quarrel and fight, and you, her precious darling, might. 
get hurt. She was afraid of you, too; she knew you di.i 
not love her; that you were madly infatuatid about that 
gypsy, Leonie; and between all, the utifi>rtuiiate littlf^ 
creature was nearly frantic. But she is your wife— true 
and pure and spotless in thought and dcod — as high abo'/e 
you in truth and innocence as heaven is above theeaiui 
— a million times too good for her foresworn husband. Get 
her to forgive you, if you can — though if she had an atom 
of spirit she would see you at the bottom of the sea first! 
Take her back, and take old Uncle Wylder's fortune with 
her. Go to Italy, as you proposed, and daub canvas and 
waste paint to the end of year days. Forget the little 



I 



i ^ ■.■;i-; 



342 



estella's husband. 



Rutherford, and follow the maxim of the copy-books: * B^ 
virtuou", and you will be happy!' Tell Estella 1 am sorry 
for slandering her — the only act of my past life 1 am sorry 
for, except, may be, that I didn't finish you while 1 was 
about it, and accept the parting benediction of 

" Robert Bartram. " 

George Waldron paused and grasped his friend's hand 
with a glowing face. , 

** Was 1 not right, Alwyn — glorious news, is it not? By 
Jupiter! if I had the power 1 would canonize Robert le 
Diable for this one good deed. Upon my honor, I am as 
glad as if some beneficient fairy had left me Aladdin'" 
lamp. I always liked your pretty little rosebud of a wife 
old boy. I always knew she was spotless as an angel; £ 
always said so; 1 felt it in my bones from the first that 
there was foul play somewhere. Come, rouse up, Alwyn 
Bartram! Send for her, poor, little sorrowful soul. Tell 
her the truth — go down into the valley of humiliation — kisp 
and be friends. 

But no answering light came into the deathly face and 
dark, dilated eyes of the sick man. 

" Read that," he said, hoarsely, thrusting Ebiella's lettei 
into his friend's hand, ** and tell me if ever murderer on 
this earth was more blood-guilty than I." 

George Waldron read the letter through, and looked uja 
with awfully blank face. 

"Gone!" he said; "runaway! 1 never thought of ^W/ 
And you really said those merciless words in her hearing? 
Alwyn Bartram, you have done a cruel and shameful thing! 
Do you know that she has saved your life — that night and 
day she was ceaselessly by your sick-bed — that she forgot 
to eat or sleep in her devoted care of you? and the first 
words you utter, when, under God, she restores you to 
health, are the words that drive her from you forever. 
Bartram, we read of * seething the kid in its mother's milk ' 
— 1 think I know what it means now.'' 

" Go on," Alwyn Bartram said. " I ask no mercy; I 
deserve it all! But I believed her guilty. " 

" Because you wished to believe her guilty — because you 
did not care enough for her to find out her innocence for 
yourself. I would have torn it from Robert Bartram 's 1^- 
mg throat; and so would you h»d his victim been Leonie 



'■m 



estella's husband. 



243 



Kutherford. But enough of this. If that child's heart 
is not broken — and sho is only a child, Alwyn Bartram — 
ii her brain is not crazed with misery — if she has not rashly 
taken her own life — we will find her. Poor little Estella! 
if wife ever worshiped her husband, she worshiped you, and 
Terily she has her reward!" 

** For God's sake, stopl'* the tortured man passionately 
cried. ** I deserve it all, but I can not bear it. Don't try 
to drive me mad?" 

George Waldron arose. 

" Let us hope for the best," he said. *' 1 will act for 
you, my poor fellow, until you are able to act for your- 
self. We will find Estella yet." 

He left the room as he spoke. And Alwyn Bartram 
turned his face to the wall, and was alone with his death- 
less agony of remorse. In that hour Estella was avenged 
—in that hour he fought the bitter battle she had been fight- 
ing so long — in that hour the old infatuation for Leonie 
Kutherford died out forever and ever. In the years to 
come, he might meet her daily, hourly, but the fire was 
dead — the black ashes could never rekindle — the siren's 
fatal power was at an end. 

And the search began — the search they thought so eiisy 
Ht first. 

" 1 will find her before night," George Waldron thought 
«is he left the house; ** she will not commit suicide; but 
llwyn deserves his fright." 

Night came, but she was not found. Another night and 
ntill another — and 3'et no clew. The week came to an end 
— still no Estella. Another week — a third— always hope- 
lessly in vain. Detectives were on the track— every daily 
in the city held pathetic entreaties to " Estella " to return 
— immense rewards were offered — still, still utterly in vain. 

Alwyn Bartram, a month later, left his sick-room — the 
pallid shadow of his darkly handsome self — to join in that 
fruitless quest. Earth held nothing half so dear to him 
now as the hope of finding his lost wife. Now, when it 
was too late — the old story, alas! — he knew what he had 
lost — he saw his own mad folly and cruelty— -he saw her su- 
blime self-sacrifice, her devoted love, her patient, womanly 
martyrdom so long endured. What he suffered — his un- 
availmg regret and remorse — was known only to HeaTen 
i»nd himsell. 



n 



'^'t 



"744 



bstella's husband. 



The story ot the runaway wife was ringing through the 
«»ty— Alwyn Bartram waa the hereof the hour. Every 
one pitied Estella now — every one found out they had al- 
ways liked her — poor, little, timid creature! Every one 
said, loudly, she had been shamefully ill-used. And one 
after another the weary weeks went by, and, living or 
dead, Estella Bartram was not to be found. 

Alwyn went first to Chelsea, and sought out Helea 
Mallory's old servant, Norah. He found her established 
in a little candy and toy store, more grim and resolute- 
looking than ever. 

** And so you have ill-used her, and she has run away 
f^om you,'* Norah said, with terrible grimiiess. ** Fm 
not surprised — 1 knew it would happen. I told her so; 
Lut she didn't believe me, of course. But che hasn't oome 
Lore, Mr. Bartram. I've never set eyes on her since you 
k*ook her away, and I never expect to in this world. Hadn*t 
\ou better drag the rivers, or search the dead-houses? you'll 
he most likely to find her there.'^ 

And then Norah turned her back upon him and threw her 
"»,pron over her face, and doggedly screened behind it, re- 
fused to utter another word. 

He bore it all patiently — he, the proud, the passionate — 
but he was utterly broken down. He went back to New 
York, and recommenced the search. Every means that 
^an could use, with limitless wealth at his disposal, he 
Lised, and still vainly, vainly. 

The long winter passed, and only when the April buds 
<w'ere greeti on the trees was that remorseful search given 
over in dull despair. 

** * Living or dead, I never wish to look upon your face 
ftgain!' chose were my own pitiless words,'* he thought, 
with a bitter groan; ** and living or dead, 1 never will! 
The only being on earth who ever loved me I have driven 
by ray merciless cruelty to a suicide's grave!" 

*' It is of no use, Bartram," George Waldron said to 
him, with a dolorous shake of the head. ** You must give 
St up! You are killing yourself, old boy, and that will do 
no good, you know. Better go abroad, as you intended 
• -take to vour easel and paint-brush once more, and try to 
forget." 

'* To forget!" 

It was all he said, but George Waldron always remem' 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



24£l 



bered the despair of that haggard face— of that low^ hitter 
voice; and he knew that, until his dying day, Alwvn Bar- 
tram would never forget the great trouble of his lire. 

But he took his friend's advice; before sunny April drew 
to a close he had left New York for Italy. 

** Estella is dead!" were his last words to his friend on 
the steamer's deck — *' Estella is in heaven I She never 
comitted suicide — 1 know that; but I know likewise," in 
a tone of calm conviction, " that she is dead. And 1 
know,George Waldron, that I am as much her murderer as 
though I had held the knife to her throat. If you ever 
send any kind wishes after me, let them be that my life 
may mercifully close soon!'' 



16 remem* 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

THE DAWN OF A BRIGHTER DAY. 

A BRILLIANT Spring day was ending in a misty spring even- 
ing. The ** young May moon *' sailed serenely up the star- 
gemmed sky, and the lamps twinkled athwart the still 
streets of ** dull Chelsea." 

A soft breeze fluttered the leaves of the budding trees, 
and the distant rumble of the " cars rattling over the stony 
street," or the faint, far-off barking of a dog, worn the 
only noises to disturb the placid stillness of the quiet thor- 
oughfare where Norah Styles kept her toy and candy shop. 

It was after tea with Norah, and her little parlor was 
swept and garnished, and she stood looking out of her shop 
window with a face whose dark moodiness even three cups 
of the best ''English breakfast tea" had not been able 
to remove. 

She was thinking of lost Estella — she very seldom thought 
of any one else now — thinking in bitter sorrow of all she 
must have endured, of her lonely, loveless end. For, like 
Estella's husband, Norah never doubted for an instant but 
that she was dead. 

*' Drat the men," Norah said, vindictively — " drat the 
whole of them! 1 never knew a good one yet — leastways 
exceptin' some clergymen, an' t/iey were men that never 
got married, or thought of it. Thank the Lord I kept 
clear of them in youth and in age, not that many of them 
ever wanted me, but if they had» and I had been fool 



II 



Tri6 



estella's husband. 



^M^ough to take them, I would have been a broken-hearted, 
■jiiserable creature like the rest long and many a day ago. 
i told Miss Helen what 1 thought or that handsome black- 
fc'Vised young man. I told Miss Essie, too. Neither 
would believe me, of course. Now sea how it's turned 
out! And theyVe all alike — all alike." 

** Men are deceivers ever,*' whether they mean marriage 
or not. Unconsciously Norah was paraphrasing the immor- 
tal Shakespeare — a gentleman of whom she had never 
heard — and very likely both were near the truth. 

While she stood there, a carrifn^e — a private carriage — the 
most elegant Norah had seen for many a day, dark-blue 
and glittering, with two superb black horses in silver har- 
ness, and a shining black coachman, looking like a dusky 
Bishop of Carthage — whirled up to the door. To tier door 
—yes! and stopped, and a tall young man in livery got 
down from behind and held open the door. 

A lady alighted — a young lady, in a tasteful gray travel- 
ing-suit, lighted up with brilliant blue ribbons, and a blue 
ieather in the pretty gray hat. Under this hat fell a 
•hower of rippling brown ringlets, falling beneath the 
,4ender, girlish waist. 

A gentleman leaned forward to speak to her out of the 

.^rriage window — a tall, elderly gentleman, with a haugh- 

i:y, handsome patrician face and silver hair — at first sight 

>f whom Norah Styles staggered back with a low cry of 

^maze that was almost a cry of horror. 

** Call for me in half an hour, papa,'* the young lady 
«aid, turning round; ** I will be quite ready then." 

That voice — that face! Norah stood perfectly paralyzed. 
Never on this earth had she expected to hear or see either 
again. 

The carriage whirled away, the shop-door opened, and 
Alwyn Bartram's young wife stood smiling on the thresh- 
old. 

Yes, Estellal Estella, more fashionably and elegantly 
attired than Norah had ever seen her — Estella in very 
truth; and yet not the Estella of old. 

Thy shy, wistful, childish look was gone; this young lady 
seemed eminently self-possessed and self-reliant. The old 
bright bloom of color was gone too — a fixed and change- 
less pallor seemed to have taken its place, and the large 
brown eyes looked at you with a sadder beauty than of 



estella's husband. 



241 



old. Estella, the girl, was gone; Estella, the woman, the 
wronged wife, stood in the door-way, ten years older in as 
many months. 

** Dear old Norah!" she said, with a little laugh; ** how 
you stare! Do you take me for a ghost? Shake hands, 
and see." 

She held out her hand, daintily kidded, until it seemed 
like a piece of gray marble; and Korah took it, still in 
that bewildered dream. 

'* Wake up, Norah!" Estella said, gayly. " It is your 
Essie in the flesh — no spirit of earth or air. Say some- 
thing nice in welcome, for I have come a long way to see 
you, and to-morrow I shall be away again. Ask me to 
come in and sit down, and we will ttil each other all th<* 
news." 

Norah awoke at last, and found her breath and her voicc 
** For the Lord's sake, Miss Essie, is this you? An(^ 
where do you come from, and how does that old ioreigner 
come to be here again, and with you?" 

** That old foreigner! Speak more respectfully of my 
father and the Count De Montreuil, if you please, madame! 
Where do I come from? That is what 1 want to tell you, 
if you'll only give me a chance. Is that your boudoir I 
see in there, Norah? Let us go in and make ourselves com- 
fortable, out of the way of your customers. My father will 
be back for me in half an hour, and already ' time is on 
the wing.' " 

She drew from her belt a little watch, so thickly studded 
with sparkhng gems that it made Norah wink again. Be- 
wildered still, she led the way into the humble parlor, and 
placed her rocking-chair — her seat of honor — for her un- 
expected visitor. 

** No, no!" said Estella; " keep your throne of state for 
yourself, Norah, and I will sit here at your feet, on this 
creepie, as I used to long ago, in the dear old house in Pop- 
lar Street. Ah, those pleasant days, Norah, when you 
taught me to concoct Johnnie-cake, and let me burn the 
bottom out of your sauce-pans making taffy-candy! I 
wonder if my new life, with all its grandeur, will be any 
happier than that?" 

She laughed a little, but she also sighed. The fair 
young face in repose lotked worn and drawn, and ther») 



'\ 



248 



E8TELLA S HUSBAIO). 




mm^ 



were deep lines across the smooth brow, plowed there by 
the hard hand of trouble. 

** ]^y child!'" Norah said, with emotion; ** do you know 
we nil thought you dead — all?" 

** Yes, 1 know,'* very softly, very sadly. ** Better so, 
since I am dead to — to every one but you. I know every- 
thing, Norah, but I am not sorry for what I have done. 
The old life is closed forever — I am Mrs. Bartram no more. 
I am Miss De Montreuil now, and until the end of my days." 

*' My child — my dear Miss Essie — take care! Do nothing 
now you may repent of after.'* 

** 1 will never repent!" She lifted her head, and her 
face settled into a hard look Norah had never seen there 
before. '* Norah, I am not the girl you knew — not the 
happy, hopeful, trusting girl who left you — who would have 
left the wide world, and thought it well lost, for Alwyn 
Bartram! I have done with hope, and trust, and faith in 
mankind, forever and ever. I will be happy, if I can; but 
never again with the happiness that is gone. 1 have been 
cruelly and shamefully used, Norah, and if my heart has 
not been broken, something worse has been done, for it 
has grown hard and cold as a stone. I have lost something 
— heart, conscience, I don't know what — but I will never 
be what I was to my dying day!" 

Her voice rang out clear and cold; her pale face tnrned 
rigid as marble; her eyes looked straight before her with ft 
hard glitter painful to see. 

** If they — Alwyn Bartram and Roysten Darrell — ^had 
taken a dagger and stabbed me, they would have done a 
less cruel and dastardly deed. No, Norah, don't speak, 
don't advise — it is all of no use. I know everything you 
can tell me, and more. I know that Roysten Darrell is 
dead; I know he told the truth before he died; I know 
that my husband believed when he could doubt no longer; 
1 know he has searched for me far and wide, and used 
every means man could use to win me back. I dare say he 
is sorry for the past; I dare say he feels remorse; 1 dare 
say he would be very kind and good to me, if I went back. 
But I never will — never — never — never! 1 tell you again, 
I have been cruelly and barbarously used, and I try to 
forgive. I do forgive both the dead and the living; but I 
do not forget — and I never will." 



istella's husband. 



249 



* Then yon do wc' forgive," said Norah, ** for without 
torgecting, forgivene&j means nothing." 

** It does in my case. I hope he will be happy — I hope 
so, Norah. I would make him happy, if I could. But ne 
said things to me — of me — that no wife could ever overlook. 
And he does not care for me — he never did. There was not 
one spark of atfection for me in his heart when he perjured 
himself by marrying me. He loves as ho can love, a beau- 
tiful and fashiotiablelady in New York — a married woman, 
Norah — and she loves him. Do you think 1 would go 
back, knowing all this — knowing that duty and remorse, 
not love, prompted his search? Go back and live with a 
man whose heart was another woman's — who barely toler- 
ated r/ie.'' Oh, Norah! I am not proud, and I love him 
dearly — dearly — dearly. But to go back — to be again his 
»vife — Norah, I would die first!" 

Her pale cheek flushed, her dark eyes flashed. She sat 
^here, gentle Estella Mallory no more, but the haughty 
daughter of Count De Montreuil, with bright Norman 
blood beating in h t veins — the sang azure of an old and 
titled race. 

*' And yet you love him?" Norah said. 

* And yet I love him, with a deep and deathless love, as 
t wiH love him to my dying day. But to love and ^*loved 
are two different things. 1 have left him, and forever! 
May Lis life be long and happy, but it will never be shared 
by me. I have found my father, and lie loves me, Norah, 
with a love that will know no change. Why don't you ask 
me all about it?" 

** 1 am waiting to hear." 

*' Well," said Estella, *' when I ran away, 1 did not 
drown myself or take poison, as I fancy many thought. I 
simply left my husband's house for the house of one of 
our servants, who had got married some months before, to 
whom I had been kind, and who 1 knew would shelter me 
p-nd be discreet. She was; she took me in, treated me 
with a kindness and delicacy lean never forget, asked no 
questions, and answered none of those innumerable adver- 
tisements concerning me. What I suffered for the first few 
months, you or no one else on earth c^n. ever know. 1 
>ived through it all — that is enough. I haii time to think 
n those long, lonely weeks, Norah, and I thought, after 
• 11, poor Aunt Helen uught be mistaken in hei hard judg- 



II 



\ t 



250 



estella's husband. 



viient of my father. At all events, I turned to him in my 
ioneliness and friendliness, and — 1 wrote him a letter. I 
told him I had been married ; had separated from my has- 
band; that I was poor and alone, and ready to go to him, if 
he would take me. I told him no names — 1 begged him 
never to ask — my heart was too sore, my wouiidj too re- 
cent. If he could take me as I was, well and good; if not, 
then I must labor for myseL. I sent my letter away, and 
waited. An answer came — a long, loving mswer — an- 
nouncing his speedy arrival to fetch me to 1* i'ance. He 
came, Norah, three weeks ago. To-morrow we return to 
New York, to sail immediately for Havre, and — there is 
my story! 1 came here to see you, to tell you; but you 
must keep my secret. All who knew me think me dead. 
Let them so think. Tell no one — not even Alwyn Bartram. 
Hark! there is the carriage returning. Dear old Norah, 
4,'ood-bye!'' 

She put Ler arms round her neck, with a dry, tearless 
•ob, and clung there. 

** Do you remember our last parting, Norah? You 
warned me then, but I would not be warned. I go from 
you again, but it is to a father this time, not a bridegroom 
— andia father's love is different.'* 

** Yes, it is different," Norah said, very sadly. ** My 
woor little Essie! God bless you, my darling, and make you 
nappy, and keep you unspotted from the world!" 
Good-bye, good-bye!" 

They were Estella's last words. Norah stood still. The 
t?right vision in gray and blue flitted like a fairy out into 
the misty moonlight; the tall young man assisted her into 
the elegant carriage; the black coachman flourished his 
whip, and the superb black horses pranced away. And as 
Cinderella, in her magic chariot and golden robes, may 
have vanished from the admiring eyes of her fairy god- 
mother, so Estella disappeared, to begin her new and 
brighter life as Count De Montreuil's daughter and heiress. 



CHAPTER XXVn. 

AFTE R TEN TEARS 

The Acadefliy of Music was crowded. The opera thai 
night was " Robert le Diable," and all the hatU-ton of 
brilliant New "^C^'k assembled to hear the Rribert of the 



estella's husband. 



35^ 



evening — a ntar of Earopean celebrity — with the handstme« 
face and divinest voice out of Paradise. 

The first act of the opera was almost over, as a tall, darli , 
rather distinguished-looking gentleman lounged into the 
stalls and took up a bill of the performance. 

His broad brow, swarth as a Paynim's, darkened percep- 
tibly as he read the name of the opera, and he flung the 
harmless strip of paper down, and turned his moody eyeg 
upon the audience. 

Two young men, sitting near, attracted his attention. 
He looked — ^looked again — then listened involuntarily to 
their conversa'^ion. 

The young men were Mr. George Waldron, and a dark - 
eyed, elegant young Frenchman, a Washington attachlS 
M. Victor de Launey. 

** Is your Parisian princess here to-night?" Mr. Waldron 
was asking, leveling his lorgnette at a particular boi% 
** No, I Kee her not; and the opera-house is a waste and 
howling wilderness to half the men present. Will she 
show, I wonder?" 

* * Without doubt. She is too impassioned a devotee of 

music to miss hearing M on his first evening. But the 

goddess of the night arises late, and we, the worshipers^, 
must learn patience. Ah, how it is peerless, how it is 
radiant, the lovely Estellel" 

** Stricken?" Mr. Waldron said, coolly. " I thought 
as much. But she's dangerous. Mademoiselle De Mont- 
reuil and the goddess Minerva are the only two ladies of my 
acquaintance born without that uncomfortable appendage— 
a heart. It is the Princess Frostina, snow-white, beautiful, 
and snow-cold. To my certain knowledge, she has re- 
fused three of the most eligible partis of the season, during 
her five weeks' campaign." 

*' And to ?/)(/ certain knowledge, an English earl and a 
Russian prince, before she left Paris," De Launey said, 
stroking his mustache. ** It is marble, 7non ami — it is flint 
of the hardest — Estelle the Peerless. They talk— thosr^ 
others — of a disappointment in early life as the cause." 

** Ah, bah!" George Waldron said, cynically. " Who 
remembers, in these days, one's first Icve — least of all, f 
woman. Look at mademoiaelle's cousin, Madame Leonii 
Rutherford, the brilliant little widow; she was in lo"a 
madly, infatuatedly, ten years ago — hopelessly, too, sino<» 



11 



\i 




til % 



■ l' 11/ . ^ 



323 



estella's husband. 



sho was already a wife, and he a husband. She losfc him, 
and look at her, 1 say, to-day — the lightest-headed, hardest* 
hearted flirt that ever lured men to destruction. She makes 
me think, egad! of those weird old storios of Norse sorcer- 
esses and German nixies singing men to their fatal doom. 
She has dono the ' iovrd-and-lost * business thoroughly, 
but she can cat, drink, and be merry as well as the liintiesn 
of us, to-day." 

*' Sho may remember, for all that," the Frenchman said, 
pithily. *' Wo don't wear our heart on our sleeve, in this 
year of grace eighteen hundred and sixty-six — " He broke 
off suddenly. " What do you see, mon cher^ that you 
wildly stare? The Marble Horseman?'* 

** By Jove!" Waldron exclaimed, under his breath, *' tha 
Marble Horseman would hardly surprise me morel Look 
at the man on your loft, De Launey, sitting like a statue 
of dark marble! If Alwyn Bar tram be alive and in the 
flesh, that is he.'' 

Tke ** statue of dark marble " turned around, with a 
Bmile. An instant, and George Waldron had started out of 
his seat, flushed and excited, and was shaking hands with 
effusion. 

** Then it is you, Bartram, and no wraith! And aftei 
ten years of exile and wandering and picture-painting, you 
return at last. Tl.'e world travels as in a groove nowadays, 
it seems to me. We always return to the poii_ .ve started 
from. Gad! I'd aa soon have expected to behold the 
Grand Turk sitting out the opera as Alwyn Bartram. And 
when did you return?" 

** To-day, in the * Europa.' And happening past here 
this evening, I dropped in to kill time. Time is my im- 
placable enemy, George. I have spent the past ten years 
m trying to kill it, but I never succeed." 

** Ah!" said George, *' you are a trifle Uase, I'm afraid; 
but nftver mind — the pure and innocent air of balmy New 
York will do away with all that, and restore your pristine 
freshness. And' so you have made your mark in the artistic 
world at last — knocked Guide and Raphael, and the rest 
of these ancient bricks, into a cocked hat? I've read all 
about it — ^your wonderful Alpine storms and Venetian sun- 
sets, your Didos, and Cordelias, and Iphigeuias, and the 
res^ of 'em. J always thought it was in yon, old fellow 



estella's husband. 



3»4 



Permit mc to congratulate you ! Ilore, De Lanney, let in« 
make you aoquainted with my Orestes, Alwyn Bartram.'* 
; The gentlemen bowed. Ceorgo WiiUlron ran on: 

** Have you seen many of the old facea since von landed? 
But of course you haven't. Well, you oouldn t come to a 
better place than the Academy. I see hosts of old acquaint- 
ances of yours on every hand, and — by JovqI Alwyn, there 
is the oldest, the nearest, the dearest of the lot — the lovely 
Leonio herself, your old adoration I While we talk of the 
* Queen of the Night,' she begins to shine. Yonder is the 
beauty of the season, our French princess. Mademoiselle 
De Montreuil." 

He raised his glass eagerly; Alwyn Bartram and De 
Launey did the same. But they were not singular. Afire 
of lorgnettes was already turned in that direction. Alwy*» 
Bartram looked and saw. 

Radiant in jewels and brilliant silk, Leonie Rutherford 
sat before him — more splendid in her rich, dark, insolent 
beauty than ever. Ten years had not made her ten houra 
older; or, if it had, cosmetics, and a French maid, and a 
dazzling toilet hid it well. The bloom on her cheek was 
brighter, the lire in her dark, almond-shaped eyes more 
sparkling, her rich, black hair more soft and abundant, the 
round fairy form plump as a partridge. Yp° *ime and 
the cares of life sat lightly on those graceful shoulders, and 
ceaseless smiles rippled, and the vivacious black eyes danced 
like twin sunbeams over the house. 

He sat and looked at her — this man who had loved her- - 
whose life she had helped to wreck — who might have been 
her husband to-day — and not one pulse quickened, not one 
heart-beat stirred. The gleam in his somber eyes was cold 
and critical, and not unallied to contempt. 

** She wears well," he thought. " Is it nature, or is it 
art? Has some American Madame Rachel undertaken to 
make her * beautiful forever?' la that damask bloom liquid 
rouge, and that spotless complexion flake white? Is it 
all the work of the femme de chamhre, or the result of a 
light heart and a peaceful conscience combined with the 
dead-and-gone Rutherford's rupees?" 

His cynical glance left her and rested a second on the tall , 
white-haired, proud old man who sat beside her — patriciai . 
and rVenchman from head to foot — her uncle, the Count 
De Montreuil, he knew. It left him and rested on the thir^ 



ti 

* I 



\' , 



254 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 










occupant of the box, tho count's only daughter^ heirea^ 
beauty, belle, Mailanioisello PJstelle Do Montreuil. 

Alwyn Bartram looked, and from that instant sa^ no one 
else in the house. In that moment one woman of all 
women on earth arose before him to transform the world. 
For ten long years his heart had lain cold and still in his 
breast; not all the beauties of Italy or Spain, or the sunny 
Ehineland, had quickened its beating oy one throb; and 
now, at sight of a pale girl sitting in an opera-box, it awoke 
to life once more, vvitli a hot, sudden plunging that sent 
the dusky blood redly to his face. 

She was hardly a girl either; it was a woman of five-and- 
twenty who sat before him, very simply dressed beside her 

gorgeous cousin — a white opera-cloak slipping off her shouk- 
ers, and white roses in her shining dark-brown hair. A 
tall and staucsque woman, with a pale, beautiful face, and 
wonderful yellow-brown eyes, whoso peers not all the 
opium-eaters of Stamboul ever dreamed of. It was a purely 
(Jrecian face, the nose, the chin, the mouth, perfect; the 
delicate cheeks oval; the broad, low forehead like marble. 
And the dainty head reared itself upon the slender throat 
with a haughty grace that seemed unconscious, for the 
rosebud mouth wore an expression unutterably sweet and 
gentle. And deep in the depths of those pathetic, liquid 
dark eyes, and around that exquisite mouth, there lay a 
weary look, the look no face ever wears, save the face of 
one who has suffered bitterly, and learned endurance after 
the long, long strife. 

*' It is the ideal face 1 have been trying so long to painty 
and trying in vain," he said. 

*' ' In many earthly forms I vainly sought 
The shadow of this idol of my thought.' 

Your Mademoiselle De Montreuil is rarely beautiful, 
Waldron. I wonder no longer that Russian princes and 
haughtier English earls have laid their crowns vainly at 
her feet. We read of * women to die for. ' I begin to think 
there must be such things after all — women who can tram- 
ple on strawberry-leaves. " 

" I say, Bartram," George remarked, with a queer side 
glance, '* does she remind you of any one you ever knew? 
That turn of the head, that express! om about the moutb< 
those amber eyes — think?'* 



estella's husband. 



255 



But Mr. Bartram had no need to think; the vague resijni- 
olance, shadowy, yot strong, had struck him with a (piick 
lieai't-pang from the first. 

*' Yes/* he said, very gravely, '* I see — I understand. 
And yet Estclla was not like that— not in the least like 
yonder statuesque woman, 

" ' A daughter of the gods, divinely tull. 
And most divinely fair;' 

but the resemblance you speak of is theru. Sliu reminds mo 
of my wife.*' 

" The little Rutherford sees us,^' cried George, a»iim.'it- 
edly. ** Look how she stares I She recognizes you, Alwyn. 
See * beauty's bright transient glow ' all over her fair face 
in delighted surprise. Does she wear your fetters still, I 
wonder? By Jove! she bows and beckons! Let us go!" 

*' You grow excited," De Launey said, with a French- 
man's shrug. ** One would fancy you in the fair Leonie's 
list of killed, too. But come, the curtain falls and a lady 
waits. Come, Mr. Bartram, and be presented to the most 
beautiful woman in New York." 

The three young men arose and made their way to the 
box of the Count De Montreuil. Leonie Rutherford 
turned eargorly round, her cheeks flushed, bor eyes spark- 
ling, her ringed hand outstretched. 

** Mr. Bartram!" she exclaimed. Oh, what a surprise 
this is! li I had looked and beheld Napoleon III. sitting 
down yonder, a moment ago, I could hardly have been 
more astonished. Good-evening, gentlemen," with a 
laughing nod to the other two, ** I will speak to you pres- 
ently. Estella, let me present ray old, old friend, Mr. Al- 
wyn Bartram. " 

The Count De Montreuil's daughter had not turned round 
at the opening of the door. She had been glancing care- 
lessly over the house. But at the sound of the name spoken 
by her cousin, a sudden stillness came over her from head 
to foot. The smile on her lips seemed to freeze. The 
words she was speaking to her father died abruptly away. 
The change was instantaneous— as instantaneously it van- 
ished. When Mrs. Rutherford presented her ** old, old 
friend," mademoiselle, the count's daughter, was ready to 
bow with easy grace and infinite calmness. Her face was 
paler than her opera-cloak; but that beautiful face was 









:W6 



ksxella's husband. 



i^ways 80 colorless, that its added pallor no^ was not no- 
ticeable. 

M. De Launey bent over Mademoiselle De Montreuil's 
cnair with the nonchalant grace cf your thorough French- 
man, talking vivaciously. He was an old acquaintance in 
Paris, a distant off-shoot of the De Montreuil family, and 
more intimate with the lovely heiress than any other gen- 
tleman alive, excepting her father. 

Mr. Waldron stood a little aloof, and looked enviously 
on, watching, covertly also, the meeting between Leonie 
and her former flame. 

It was a very quiet meeting, on the gentleman's side, at 
least. Mrs. Rutherford had grown gashing and sentimen- 
tfl with the lapse of years, and was inclined to recall her 
first love and grow pathetic over it, had Mr. Bartram sec- 
wnded her lead. 

But Mr. Bartram, more like a statue of dark marble than 
^ rer, sat among the bright lamps with a face of fixed pallor 
<*Dd gravity — a face strangely stern and cold for that 
uiilliant scene. He was thinking of his lost wife; of that 
lost wife of whom he had never heard during all those 
weary years, and of the share this brilliant, hollow-hearted 
coquette had in driving her from his side. The chief fault 
was his own, no doubt; but Leonie Rutherford had indi- 
rectly been the cause of all. 

His heart turned bitter and harder than iron as the past 
hkfose before him, and the smiling face hideous in his sight 
k^ a death's-head. He glanced away from her, and over 
at the pale, earnest, beautiful face of the count's daughter. 
Again that vague resemblance thrilled him through and 
t.irough. 

** Ihere are women, and women," he thought, ** Estellas 
iind Loonies, the true and the false. If faces speak the 
truth, this peerless French woman is as noble as she is lovely. 
And my wife might have grown like that in these ten 
years, happily spei.t. My poor little broken-hearted Essie 1" 

Mademoiselle De Montreuil raised her eyes as the thought 
crossed his mind — those great, fathomless eyes of liquid 
?ight, and for the third time that sharp pang of resem- 
blance pierced his heart. They ivei^e alike, his dead wife and 
this living beauty. 

" You look at my handsome cousin," lieonie exclaimed, 
in. the rapid, vivacious way that was her latest r61e. '* She 



BSTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



257 



reminds yoa of — Ah! pardon me. The subject is pain- 
ful, 1 know. Very beautiful, is she not? But, mon JJieu ! 
colder than snow, more heartless than the goddess with the 
shield and helmet, and more wise. It is a paragon of frigid- 
ity, and piety, and prudence, and all the rest of it. My 
stately, passionless, perfect cousin. Don't look too much. 
Monsieur Alwyn. Like that other goddess. Medusa, she 
is fatal to all who gaze for long." 

'* Yet mademoiselle does not look merciless,'* Mr. Bar- 
tram said, slowly. " She has a peculiarly gentle face. One 
' would not think a heart of stone lay beneath that tender 
smile." 

" ' She has two eyes so soft and brown, 
Take care! 
She gives a side glance and looks down. 

Beware! 
Trust her not, she's fooling thee.' " 

Leonie hummed the words by way of answer. 

** She is fatal, 1 tell you! Those tender smiles, those 
gentle eyes, have lured more of your unhappy sex to their 
ruin than all the sirens and water-witches in the fabled seas 
of Faerie. She w!Jl smile and look sweet to the end of the 
chapter, and when you lay your heart at her pretty feet, she 
will smile and look sweeter than ever, and say, No. And 
the laws of <rfie Medes were more easily altered than that 
terrible No. She has no faith in mankind as lovers or 
husbands. She is cynical and skeptic to the core. As 
friends, as ball-room partners, as something sensible to talk 
to, you do well enough; but as her future husband, no, Mr, 
Alwyn Bartram. As a friend, I advise you not to look to 
long at that pale, classical face. My helle cousine will 
never marry.'* 

** No? Rather hard, is it not? And why?" 

Leonie laufjjhed a little contemptuously. 

*' Who knows? Been crossed in love, as the house-maids 
say, in early life — at least 1 presume so. There ninst be a 
cause for all that bitterness, and she is bitter as death on 
the subject sometimes. She wears a picture round her 
neck; if one could only see it, it might tell tales; and she 
has her anniversary of some great sorrow, or some great 
joy, for every New Tear's -day is sacred, and she shuts 
herself up in her room and sees no one. Her past life is 
a sealed mystery to me — to her father, too^ I think, for she 

9 



258 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



is intensely secretire. I only met her, you know, two yean 
ago, when I went to Paris. We have been all together 
since. But, del ! how I chatter, and here the opera ends, 
and we are due at Madame Campau's ball. You will 
come to see us, will you not? Ah! don't look so grim, 
Alwyn. Don't say no," with a t^ender glance. " Remem- 
ber what old friends we are. 1 nave a thousand things to 
say to you. You mustQ.om.Q\ Estelle, dearest, indorse my 
invitation, will you? Monsieur gazes at you imploringly." 

Mile De Montreuil looked up with that rare, bright 
smile of hers. 

" We will be very happy — papa and I — to welcome Mr. 
Bartram, or any friend of yours, Leonie. Papa, is it not 
time to go?" 

She spoke English perfectly, without the slightest foreign 
accent, in a voice that somehow suited her face — sweet and 
silvery. Then the party arose, the count drawing his 
daughter's arm through his own, Leonie clinging to her 
old lover, and descended to the carriage. 

As it flashed away, he caught a parting glimpse of the 
two women — Leonie, dark, sparkling, smiling — mademoi- 
selle, pale, quiet, a little grave. But it was that pale, ear- 
nest face that haunted his dreams that night — Leonie wa^^ 
forgotten. 









CHAPTEE XXVin. 

" FOR, SOON" OR LATE, LOVE IS HIS OWN AVENGER." 

** Will he speak to-night? Will he ever speak, 1 won- 
der? Has the old love all died out, now that I love him 
a thousand-fold more than ever? And he knows it; 
too — surely he must know it. He must see it, if he is 
not blind. Ten years ago when I refused him, earth 
held nothing half so dear as Leonie. To-day, when 
Leonie would give the world for him, he turns cold 
and hard as iron. And yet — and yet, what does it all 
mean? Day after day he is here, for the past month; 
he sits by my side, he turns my music, he haunts us per- 
petually, and still — he will not speak. Can it be that, like 
all the rest, my tall, cold-hearted, pale-faced nonette of a 
cousin has bewitched him with her yellow eyes and grand 
uplifted ways? He sits by my side, but he looks at her; he 



/' 



ESTELLA's HU8BAND. 



259 



forgets to answer me for listening when she speaks; he 
talks, but it is to ask concerning her. Is it Leonie Ruther- 
ford or Estelle De Montreuil that Alwyn Bartram loves?** 

Pacing up and down the long, elegant drawing-room of 
her uncle's handsome house — looking brilliant and elegant 
herself in a shimmering dinner-dress of rosy silk, and a 
diamond star ablaze in her black hak — Leonie thought 
all this. 

Outside, the wintery rain beat, and the wintery wind blew; 
but within, bright lamps, and fragrant flowers, and trop- 
ical heat, and velvet and gilding, and carpets and curtains, 
made a summer picture of warmth and bloom. 

She was quite alone in the long, lofty room, walking up 
and down, with an impatient frown on her low, dusk brow, 
a compression of impatient pain curving the red, beautiful 
lips. 

She was looking really gorgeous in her rosy robes, and 
diamond stars, and rich, dark loveliness — ripe as a pome- 
granate. 

But not all the consciousness of her own beauty would 
console her to-night; for Leonie Rutherford was deeply in 
love, and, it seemed, hopelessly. She had always loved him 
»— never more than when, of her own selfish, ambitious will, 
she had given him up; and now she was free, and he was by 
her side, and the tables were turned, and '' Love was his 
own avenger.*' 

They were both rich now — poverty could stand between 
them no more. He was better than rich — famous. She 
was more ripely beautiful than ever. Both were still 
young. What, then, should hold them apart now? 

She ground her little white teeth with the old trick of im- 
potent rage, as she saw how futile all her efiforts were to 
rekindle the old flame. 

** It is Estelle De Montreuil who stands between us," 
she thought — " that pale, marble-white, marble-cold 
statue of passionless propriety! She, without blood enough 
to sin, or love, or hate— who goes placidly on, breaking 
hearts with her sweet smile and her golden eyes! Bah! I 
hate her!" 

The door opened as the vindictive thought rushed through 
her mind, and the cot t's stately daughter swept in. Re- 
gally beautiful as ever — the head and shoulders over her 
petite cousin^ and^ as usual, very simply dressed. But th§ 



''\U 



260 



estella's husband. 



mm 



1'^ 



..I 



■■^'i 



iiiiPv 



ri 



lovely arms and shoulders gleamed, like ivory against 
bronze, over the golden-brown silk she wore, and the ivy 
crown on the shining coronal of hair matched well the 
queenly grace of that proudly uplifted head. She looked 
what she was — the regal daughter of a long line of aristo- 
crats, in whose veins the blue blood had run unpolluted for 
many centuries. 

'* Still alone, Leonie?'^ she said. ** Are not the gentle- 
men lingering long this evening? Whskt a stupid custom it 
is, their remaining behind in the dining-room, when they 
are dyin^ to follow us, and we,*' with a second arch smile, 
** are dying to have them come! But I suppose papa and 
Monsieur l)e Launey linger to talk politics, and Messieurs 
Bartram, Waldron, and the rest, to discuss high ait. We 
are not supposed to comprehend these serious matters of 
life, poor imbeciles that we are! " 

She threw herself into a fauteuil, the picture of provok- 
ing calm, and g*^ :3d at her cousin. Leonie made some ir- 
ritating reply, and kept on her impatient walk. 

*' Really, Mrs. Rutherford,'^ Mile. De Montreuil said, 
calmly, " if it is not absolutely necessary for your health — 
that vigorous exercise — I wish you would sit down. I have 
nerves as well as ordinary mortals, and it rather sets them 
on edge, that feverish march of yours. Was not monsieur, 
the handsome artist, sufficiently devoted during dinner? or 
did some one interrupt him on the verge of proposal? As 
far as I could judge, from my remote seat, he looked dis- 
traught, moody. In fact, if he were not an artist — a lion, 
and the light of your existence, ma chere — 1 should say 
fiulky. What was it — the proverbial eccentricity of genius, 
or indigestion ?'* 

** Whunyou can talk without sneering. Mademoiselle De 
Montreuil,'' Mrs. Rutherford answcied, with becoming 
dignity, " I may answer you. It is accounted < hver, I be- 
lieve, to be able to sneer a^ the finer feelings o-' uur nature, 
to be cynical and contemptuous, and all that, but the 
sneerers are generally soured, 1 notice, beforehand, and the 
cynicism but another name for spice and ill-temper." 

The count's daughter laughed good-naturedly. 

*' The finer feelings of your nature! I like that from 
you, Leonie. As my friend Sam Weller remarks, there 
are so many finer feelings that one is puzzled sometimes 
among them. Don't be orossi Leonie — tell me nil about 



:-:stklla's husband. 



261 



this old lover of yours, as I am sure you are dying to do. 
r promise to be all sympathy and attention, and I know, 
my poor little cousin, secrecy is not your forte. Sit down 
nere comfortably, and let me hear the whole story/' 

" There is nothing to tell," Leonii; siiid, taking the seat, 
nevertheless; ** at least, nothing yoii liave not already heard. 
Vv'C were engaged, over ten years ago, and '* — with sudden 
vehemence — '* he is the only man alive I ever loved!" 

*• And you are the only woman /^e ever loved, I suppose,'* 
her cousin suggested. " He looks like a man who might 
be faithful to an early idol. Strange, then, you are not his 
wife to-day, pehle !" 

** It is all my own fault," Leonie said, bitterly; '* all — 
from ^rst to last. 1 loved him, but I loved my piide and 
vanity more; and, when he lost his uncle's fortune, I left 
him, too." 

" A dastardly act!" said the cold, clear voice of the 
count's daughter, ** and it is the fashion of our gallant old 
house always to back the losing side. 1 would not have 
done it." 

" No, I dare say not," retorted the little widow, still 
more bitterly; "but I don't set up to be such a Princess 
Perfect as you, Eatelle. I left him, and married old 
Rutherford, and he — he went, and in a fit of desperation 
wedded a little namby-pamby, bread-and-butter-eating 
school-girl without beauty or brains. " 

*' A bad bargain," said mademoiselle, with unutterable 
calm. ** Then monsieur is a widower, or separated, like 
all you Americans — which?" 

" Oh, a widower, thank Heaven!" replied Mrs. Ruther- 
ford, piously. ** She committed suicide, 1 believe — 1 told 
you she had no brains. Though really, in her place, I 
think I would have done it myself." 

** He was unkind to her, then? I confess, I should never 
think it — he looks sufficiently chivalrous. But one can 
not judge by looks." 

*' Well, 1 don't know; he was not absolutely unkind to 
her, either — he was only indifferent. He loved me, and 
he didn't care an iota for her, and she — poor, little, soft- 
headed simpleton — was madly infatuated with him." 

" With her own husband? How ridiculous! It was a 
mad infatuation ! As you say, Leonie, she must truly hay« 
b«en a * soft-headed simpleton. ' " 



ri 



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:362 



E8TELLA \S HUSBANIA. 



'* Sr/eeringaghln!" exclaimed Leonie, impatiently. "I 
wish some of your adorers. Miss De Montreuil, who thinJc 
yoM br.t one remove from an angel, could hear how bitter 
you can be. It might cure them, I fanog^. Yes, she was 
madly infatuated — idolized him, in fact, and was frantically 
jeuJous of me. And then his cousin came — Robert Bartram 
— and took his fortune from him, and slandered his wife, 
and there was a duel, and Alwyn was badly wounded. 
Romantic, is it not? Well, the wife nursed him devotedly 
through it, and when he recovered, his first act was to re- 
proach hor bitterly and drive her from his side.'' 

** The old story," said mademoiselle — " woman's blind 
devotion — man's lordly return. And she went to the drug- 
store, and invested in prussic acid? * One more unfortu- 
nate,' etc." 

" I don't know— neither does he, for certain; but it is 
an assured thing she is dead. The manner of her death 
is still shrouded in mystery. After her disappearance, 
Robert Bartram met with an accident that ended his life; 
but he lived long enough to clear her fair fame from every 
blot. Then search was made — svch search — for the miss- 
ing one, but all in vain. She has never been heard of 



smce. 



fy 



it 



It reminds one of the story of the * Old Oak Chest,' " 
Estelle said, with a shrug and a smile. ** Poor little wife! 
But then these silly little bread-and-butter eaters — we can 
afford to spare one of them. " 

Mrs. Rutherford looked indignantly at her cousin. 

" They used to call me heartless, Estelle, but they ought 
to hear you! You are harder than iron — a bitterer old 
cynic than Diogenes in his tub!" 

Again Mile. De Montreuil smiled unruffled. 

" How delightful to find Madame Rutherford in the char- 
acter of a censor! One would hardly expect it, either. Is 
your story finished, petite ? 1 am going to the piano. " 

** Almost. Alwyn Bartram left New York, after hunt- 
ing high and low, and spending oceans of money, and 1 
never set eyes on him since, until that night, a month ago, 
at the opera. He is the most altered of mankind — so 
stem, so gloomy, so taciturn. And he used to be fasci- 
nating! I could never have believed the loss of a wife he did 
not love could change him so. ' ' 



3f 



titly. " I 
who think 
bow bitter 
s, she was 
frantically 
t Bartram 
I his wife, 
wounded, 
devotedly 
waa to le- 
an's blind 
the drug- 
unfortu- 

but it is 
her death 
pearance, 
I his life; 
om every 
the miss- 
heard of 

Uhest/ " 
ttle wife! 
— we can 

n. 

ey ought 

ierer old 



he char- 
her. Is 

no." 

er hunt- 
, and 1 



y 

ith ago, 
:ind — so 
e fasci- 
e he did 



estella's husband. 



263 



'* Blessings brighten as they take their flight! At last, 
perhaps, he learned to love her. *' 

"' Ah, bah! sentimental nonsense! No; it was remorse 
that prompted the search — nothing more. He never loved 
her — he never could love her. There was nothing attract- 
ive or lovable about her. A plain, pale, awkward country 
girl! And then, 1 was there! 

** And he loved you, and does still, without doubt. Very 
true, Leonie; and yet, I don't envy you. Marry Mr. Bar- 
tram if you can; but if the ghost of his dead wife does not 
rise before you at the altar, then — '* 

She stopped abruptly, with a laugh at Leonie's angry, 
scandalized face, and arose. 

** What nonsense 1 talk, don't I, ma cheref And yet I 
have the strongest internal conviction you will never write 
yourself Mrs. Bartram. " 

She swept across the room, heedless of Leonie's indignant 
retort. *' Then you mean to marry him yourself, perhaps " 
— and sat down to the piano. 

She was a brilliant performer, and the instrument was 
superb; but this evening her fingers wandered plaintivp'y 
over the keys— so softly that the beating of the wintciy 
storm was plainly audible without. 

Old memories seemed stirring within her; the beautiful 
face looked strangely sad, the tender eyes strangely dreamy. 
Was she thinking of days — this proud daughter of a proud 
race — very sweet, and gone forever? 

All at once she broke into a song — and old, old song — the 
simplest any one had ever heard the accomplished Mile. De 
Montreuil sing: 

" On the banks of Allan Water, 

When brown autumn spreads its store, 
Still was seen the miller's daughter, 

But she smiled no more. 
For the summer grief had brought her. 

And the soldier, false was he. 
On the banks of Allan Water, 

None so sad as she. ' ' 

The door opened as she sung; the gentlemen entered^ 
noiselessly, listening, and one stood spell-bound. 

Before Alwyn Bartram there arose a vision — evoked b^ 
this song, unheard for nearly eleven years — the vision of 
the little Chelsea parlor, his pale girl-wife singing mourn* 
fully to herself in the lonely twilight. 



2tj4 



ESTELLA'S HU8BAND. 




'J If 



What diJ this beautiful daughter of the French count 
mean by looking at him with those dead eyes — by smiling 
upon him with that lovely, tender smile — by singing the 
song she used to sing? 

** Is it retribution?" he thought, with an inward groan, 
** Am I 9ierer to forget? Is the woman I love to be the 
avenging ghost of the wife I have lost?" 

For it had come to this — he loved Estelle De Montreuil. 
Leonie's worst fears were rightly founded. Stripped of all 
scohistry, he loved the count's daughter — this peerless 
. jiuty, who refused princes and earls, and scores of un- 
i'^^ed worshipers, and sailed on her placid way, serene and 
cuiiUy bright as the glittering midnight moon. 

H« 'oved her without hope, all the more passionately, 
perhaps, thpt he was hopeless. The grapes that hung in 
the sunshine, high above our reach, are always the sweetest 
What was he — a disappointed, moody, remorseless man — 
that this peerless Estelle should stoop from her high estate 
to give him one tender thought — she whose stately head 
might have worn a princely crown. 

bhe looked up as she finished che song, and their eyes 
met — those magnetic, fathomless eyes, whose glances 
thrilled him to the very soul — the very eyes of the wife he 
had lost. 

Impulsively he started up — crossed over to the piano, 
while a lovely, fluttering color came and faded in the pale, 
oval cheeks. 

He seldom forced himself upon Mile. De Montreuil — he 
was content to worship his goddess afar off; but to-night 
some impulse stronger than himself forced him to her 
side. His heart was full — full of her beauty and grace 
and his own mad love; yet when he spoke his words were 
as commonplace as words could be. 

"I did not think Mademoiselle De Mont^* uil honored 
our simple old English ballads so far. It is rare indeed 
to hear them in these laitter days, and yet they are very ten- 
der and sweet." 

** ?>lademoi8elle De Montreuil does, and has dom , niuny 
things monsieur does not dream of in his philosopli v , " -l.e 
answered, gayly. '* I like these old songs, and yci ^ 
nearly eleven years since I sung that before." 

He started as if he had been stung, and looked at her 
earnestly. 



Qh count 
y smiling 
iging the 

d groaii. 
to be the 

^ontreuil. 
3ed of all 
peerless 
)s of un- 
irene and 

lionately, 
) hung in 
sweetest 
8 man — 
gh estate 
bely head 

heir eyes 

glances 

5 wife he 

le piano, 
he pale, 

euil — he 
to-night 
to her 
id grace 
•ds were 

honored 
indeed 
ery ten- 

niany 

y," -lie 

, at lier 



'TI'M.A S IU?BAND. 



265 



What did it mean— this bewildering chain of coinci- 
dences? Nearly eleven years, too, since he had heard his. 
wife sing it in the old Chelsea homestead! 

A wild, impossible idea flashed through*, his brain, and 
set his heart throbbing madly. But z ^^cond later he 
could have laughed aloud at himself ii 'tie bitterness of 
his self-scorn. 

*' Am I falling into my dotage at eight-and-thirty, that 1 
think such things? Do I expect to live a chapter out of 
the * Arabian Nights,' or the * Castle of Otranto,' or any, 
other romance of wonders? My little, pale-faced, shy- 
eyed wife, and this superb, haughty, magnificent daughter 
of the gods, one and the same! Bah! Alwyn Bartram; 
you have been a fool ^^1 your life — you grow a greater fool 
with every passing y»- r. 

The silvery voice -sv t and clear as a crystal bell — 
recalled him. She iocvrea very gracious and gentle to-night 
— this uplifted lauv, w» oheld all mankind at arm's-length 
— and the smile bi the; liquid eyes, on the perfect lips, was 
inexpressibly fae ^t'ng. 

He yielded himseli to the siren's fatal spell, as in the old 
days he had yielded to her cousin. The rosy fetters closed 
tighter and tighter about him. The lion was hopelessly 
meshed in the golden glitter of her eyes and smiles. 

He let himself drift to his fate in very desperation; he 
yielded to the subtile witchery of voice and smile without 
one effort to resist. 

*' Let the worst come!" he thought, with his fatalist's 
recklessness. ^^ I am equal to either fortune; 1 will sit in 
tho sunshine while I can; when I am cast forth into the 
cater darkness, where so many better men have gone be- 
fore, I will be ready to face the worst; Mademoiselle De 
Montreuil, * the refuser,' as they name her, shall have a 
chance to refuse still another victim speedily. And when 
it comes, and I know the worst, I can go back to Italy 
and paint my pictures, and become a misanthrope, and a 
sneerer, and a woman-hater, like the rest." 

All the long evening the artist lingered by the side of 
the enchantress, with a moody inflexibility worthy of a 
better cause. And she never once repulsed him. For a 
W'fiiler, she let herself be monopolized. 

'^.\e sung for him, played him dreamy sonatas from 
h-:^m}'t, talked to him of Italy, of his art, of his success^ 






266 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 




w 



ii-f-^ 



of her good wishes for his future, until the man's heart 
burned within him. She looked so lovely, so lovable, so 
gentle, so near a queen with the erown and scepter laid 
aside, for the time being all his own. 

He was beside her — dizzy with his undreamed-of bliss — 
wishing the golden hours of this enchanted evening could 
go on forever. 

There were others present quite as much astonished by 
the artist's success as the artist himself — Count De Mont- 
rouil among them. He looked in wonder, and pulled his 
long white mustache in direst perplexity. 

What did his Sphinx of a daughter mean by becoming 
human all at once, after being a marble statue for so 
many years? Had the Prince come to arouse the Sleeping 
Beauty, when he had given the prince over as a hopeless 
myth? And was this black-browed, stern-looking, gloomy 
young man, who talked little and smiled less, the magician 
that was to change his beautiful Estelle from marble to 
flesh? 

** Sucre bleu !'* the old Napoleonist thought, knitting 
his silvery brows. ** It passes one's comprehension! I 
never saw her half so gracious before, with the best men 
of the empire at her feet. That mythical husband in the 
background, of whom she told me ten years ago— does this 
man remind her of him? or is it the man himself? Ah, 
bah! who can comprehend a woman?'* 

And Leonie? But Leonie was not one to yield without 
a struggle. Like all the De Montreuils, she was ready to 
fight until the last gasp. At first her black eyes had 
flashed amazed and indignant Are. What did Estelle De 
Montreuil mean by taking possession of her property? 

Then she sat still and waited, her cheeks still flushed and 
eyes still flashing, and lips ominously compressed. And 
under her very nose the flirtation still went on. 

Then she rose, great with the occasion, and marched 
resolutely to the rescue, bent on reclaiming her slave, or 
dying in the struggle. 

Bat she failed — signally failed. The plainest kitchen- 
maid in the area regions could hardly have been ignored 
more effectually. Mile. De Montreuil was determined on 
keeping her captive, and, alas for Leonie! that captive 
was but too willing. She struggled bravely to the last, 
but to the last in v^in. His parting word, his parting 



estelia's HLSUAMi 



367 



'a heart 
able, so 
ter laid 

: bliss— 
g could 

shed by 
B Mont- 
lled his 

looming 
for so 
ileeping 
lopeless 
gloomy 
lagician 
irble to 

mitting 
ion I I 
)st men 
I in the 
oes this 
? Ah, 

without 
Bady to 
es had 
Bile De 
? 

ed and 
And 

arched 
ive, or 

tchen- 
nored 
led on 
aptive 
last, 
larting 



glance, his last hand-clasp— all, a?l were for Eatelle! He 
hardly knew she was in the room. 

*' Woe to the vanquished!" George Waldron solemnly 
said in her ear. ** All is lost but honor!*' 

They were gone— the drawing- room was deaerted. With 
blazing eyes the small virago turned upon her tall cousin; 
but mademoiselle had iguominiouHly lied. *' Conscience 
makes cowards of us all.'' She was not prepared to face 
ker much-injured cousin just then. 

Up in her luxurious room, the light burning low, the 
, rain and sleet lashing the windows, Estelle knelt, her face 
hidden in her hands, her heart throbbing tumultuously. 

" At last," that impassioned heart cried — '* at last the 
crowning hour of my life hus come! He loves me as he 
never loved her! At last, at last, he is mine !** 

In another room near, equally luxurious, brilliantly light- 
ed, the gorgeous widow walked up and down, nearly frantic 
with rage and jealousy, impotent love and despair. 

** I am no more to him than the commonest vagrant 
that walks the streets; if 1 were dead to-morrow it would 
not cause him one pang. He is all hers; he loves her as 
he never loved me m his life. And 1 might have been his 
happy wife to-day if I had so chosen — miserable, selfish 
fool that I have been." 

And in his room, Alwyn Bartram gazed upon a painted 
face — the beautiful face of his idol — as a devotee might 
upon his patron saint, with a rapt, ecstatic gaze. 

** If the world were mine, 1 would lay it at her feet!" he 
thought. " Does earth hold another like her — so beauti- 
ful, so noble, so true? My peerless love, the crowning 
madness of my life — when 1 tell you how devotedly I wor- 
ship you — must come very soon! My love is too strong for 
one heart to hold!" 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

** COME WHAT WILL, I HAVE BEEN BLESSED. "' 

Alwyn Bartram had returned to JSIew York; why, he 
could hardly have told you himself. The past ten years 
had drifted dreamily away in Italy, and he !iad won a name 
among the immortals. His pictures were lauded to the 
skies, and he wrote his name high among the Academicians. 



d 



i 



2es 



EBTELLA's HU8r,AND. 



ill: 

fill 

■ii 



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But absence had not brought iorgotf ulness, nor fluccesfl 
oontuiit. That chronic remorse for his past misdeeds 
hauntod iiim stiil. 

Ill tlio lone watches of the long, still nights, the pale, re- 
proachful face of his wife rose out of the silvery Italian 
moonlight, unspeakably pallid and sad —an avenging ghost. 
He coulil not forget her; he could not forget the miserable 
uncertainty that wrapped her end. 

It was some vague hope that a second search might evoke 
something to lighten the darkness that had brought him 
ba(;k; but on the tirst night of his return, Estelle De Mont- 
reuil had arisen before him to transform his life. And 
since that night, his existence had been one long dream of 
her. 

He sat dreaming of her still, while thinking bitterly and 
self-reproachfully of the wasted weeks in which not one 
effort nad been made. Ho sat among the brilliant lights, 
and flowers, and gay faces, dark and distrait as usual — 
wrapped in moodiness as in a mantle — a gloomy specter at 
the feast. 

Once again the scene was Count De Montreuil's lofty 
drawing-room; the time, three nights after that memora- 
ble dinner-party. It was a musical reunion, and fair women 
and brave men mustered strong, and fairest among them, 
as the moon among stars, moved the queenly daughtei of 
the Parisian count. 

Alwyn Bartram sat listening to the music, that was all 
meaningless crash and uproar except when she sung. By 
his side sat Leonie, looking brilliantly, as usual, dressed 
to perfection, and lavishing upon the gloomy ingrate by 
her side all the sweetness of her bewitching glances and 
smiles. 

1 think his very moodiness — his ** Count Lara '' gloom, 
had an irresistible fascination of its own, making him more 
like a banished prince than an every-day Christian. 

But ascetic St. Kevin, on his rocky perch, never turned 
a d( ifer ear to the fascinations of the lovely Cathleen, 
than Alwyn Bartram to the witching wiles of his early love. 

He arose, at last, aldiosfc rudely — she had held him captive 
for over >*n hour — and, without one word of excuse or 
apology, quitted her side. 

Mrs. Kutherford looked after him, with pale face and 



ESTELLA's HU8BANP. 



260 



)T fluncesfl 
niindeeds 

pale, re- 
7 Italian 
ig ghost, 
niserable 

rht evoke 
ight him 

00 Mont- 
fe. And 
dream of 

terly and 

1 not one 
it lights, 
} usual — 
}pecter at 

airs lofty 

memora- 

ir women 

y them, 

rhtek of 



Jg 



was all 
By 

dressed 
grate by 
nces and 



gloom, 
im more 

turned 
!athleen, 
irly love. 

captive 
[cuse or 

face and 



omjuously flashing eyes. Had it been the days of tlM 
Borgia, that look might have sealed his doom. 

She i3aw him pauao ut the curtained entrance of a tiny 
boudoir opening out of the drawing-room, hesitate an in- 
stant, then enter. She looked round for Jier cousin; she 
was nowhere to be seen. 

'* She is there,'* the littL widow thought, compressing 
her lips, " and ho has gone to tell her, what he liaa told 
me a thousand times, that he loves her. Well, when sho 
refuses him, perhaps he will return to nie, and 1 love him 
80 dearly that 1 would accept him even then.'* 

Mrs. Kutherford had guessed aright — Estollc was in tho 
boudoir, and alone. In passing he had caught siglit of that 
tall, majestic figure, to be known by its stately grace among 
ten thousand, and he had ent^r-d at once. 

She was standing gazing dreamily out at the wintery 
moonlight, coldly bright on the glittering snow. At the 
Bound of his entrance she turned to greet him with a bright- 
ly welcoming smile. 

"At length, Mr. Bartram," she said, gayly, **you are 
civil enough to come and speak to me. This is the first 
time to-night, is it not?" 

** You were at the piano when I came in, and surround- 
ed, as usual. I would not disturb you, of course, and yet £ 
have something very particular to say to you to-night. Mad- 
emoiselle De Montreuil." 

" Indeed!" She said it lightly, but her heart gave one 
great bound, and then seemed suddenly to stop beating. 
** Is it that you return to Italy speedily? Mr. Waldron 
has anticipated you — he told me to-day." 

** I return to Italy, mademoiselle — yes, and very soon; 
never, in all mortal probability, to return. And before I 
go you must hear all my folly — all my madness — all my pre- 
sumption; for, Estelle De Montreuil, I have lifted my eyes 
where scores of worthier men have lifted theii's in vain — to 
your peerless face — and 1 love you!" 

The murder was out. He folded his arms, stood drawn 
up to his full height, his black eyes glowing, his lips set — a 
lover precious grim. 

" No one can know more fully than I io, mademoiselle, 
how insane my infatuation i^. I know that you have re- 
fused the highest titles of the old world — rejected men whom 
all the earth delights to honor. But not one among them 




h i«i. 






,4 fl 



270 



estella's husband. 



,1 i 



ever worshiped you with the passionate adoration that filli 
my heart. When I tell you I would die for your sake, tha 
words are poor and weak; but, Estelle, I would! 1 love 
you as I never loved woman, as 1 never will love again. If 
I dared ask you for love in return, your answer would be 
M). Even my madness is confident of thaf 

He stopped, his dark face rigid as stone, the chest under 
his folded arms heaving — a strong heart in strong agony. 
She had not moved once; she stood looking steadily out at 
the moonlit snow, not whiter than her perfect face. But 
now she turned suddenly, her whole countenance lighting 
up with some inward fire, as he had never seen it light 
before. 

'* You are sure 1 will say No," she repeated. " Oh, 
Alwyn! have you never thought I might say Yes?" 

" Mademoiselle!" he turned upon her, his face ghastly, 
his voice hoarse, ** for God's sake don't stoop to trifle with 
me! Refuge me if you will, but be merciful. I am a fool 
and a madman, but try to pity and spare!" 

She smiled, holding out both white hands. 

" You are bent on having JVo, 1 see. Well, my sex are 
all contrary — I will not say it. Alwyn Bartram, you have 
been blind instead of mad, or you would have known long 
ago that — I love you!" 

He absolutely staggered back, so intense was the shock 
— the surprise. Never lor one instant had he dared dream 
of such bliss as this. 

" Love me!" he repeated, bewildered. ** You, Estelle, 
love me?" 

** With my whole heart Oh, Alwyn, so dearly — so 
long!" 

Her head drooped upon his shoulder, her voice was lost 
in a sob. All her strong self -reliance fell away; the 
weary years dropped from between them — the old time 
came back with an ecstasy that was almost pain. 

He realized it at last — his crown of life was won ; he hud 
succeeded where every one else had failed. The " Refuser " 
was his. He caught her and strained her to him with a 
ioy that made him hull frantic, half delirious — that left 
him speechless. But she extricated herself, and at otiee. 

*' That will do," she said, with a smile. " No need to 
prove the strength of your affection by such Bruin-like 
embraces. And some one maj enter. Praty sit down hert 



i '^St I 



estella's husband. 



Si71 



^hat fillt 
ake, th« 
1 love 
ain. If 
vould be 

st under 
? agony. 
iy out at 
je. But 
lightiug 
it light 



>* 



"Oh, 



ghastly, 
rifle with 
\m a fool 



f 8ex are 
you have 
>wn long 

le shock 
d dream 

Estelle, 

arly — so 

was lost 
ay; the 
■)\d time 

he had 
ef user " 
wjlii a 
hat left 
B otiee. 
need to 
uin-like 
wn hert 



comfortably, Mr. Bartram and drop that dazed and ec- 
static face. One would think some wonderful piece of good 
fortune had befallen you." 

" Earth holds no other fortune half so good, half s^o 
great. Oh, Estelle, I can not realize it. You love me — 
you f My darling, if I am not dreaming, say it again.'' 

But Mile. De Montreuil only looked at. him saucily. 

** How impassionedly monsieur makes love — like a very 
hero of romance! But then the practice! Used you to 
talk to Leonie like this, sir?" 

" Ah, you know that old folly, of course. And that 
reminds me, Estelle, of the miserable story of the past — 
the story you must hear." 

" I think I have heard it already— it is of your wife. 
Leonie told me." 

*' But not one half my cold-blooded cruelty — she could 
not. I have been the greatest wretch alive; I broke the 
most trusting, the teuJcrest heart — " He stopped short, 
his voice hoarse. ** Not even to you, Estelle, can I talk 
of this. I drove from my side the most devoted wife ever 
man was blessed with — drove her to her death.'* 

*' How did she die?" Estelle De Montreuil asked, a 
tremor in her clear tones. 

** I do not know. All is wrapped in miserable uncei- 
tainty." 

And then he began and passionately poured forth the 
whole story — his early infatuation for Leonie — his loss of 
fortune — her marriage — his own — the story of Robert Bar- 
tram— the strong evidence — his belief in his wife's guilt — 
the duel — the dying man's vindication — his fruitless search 
— his undying repentance and remorse. 

The count's daughter listened to it all, her lovely face 
Tery pale, her large, dark eyes fixed on the carpet. She 
raised them, as he finished, full to his face. 

" Then, Mr. Bartram, you do not know whether your 
wife is alive or dead?" 

" 1 6?o know. She is dead. All hope that she might be 
alive ended long ago. The search I made was long and 
thorough. If she were alive, she must have been found. 
No; Estella is dead. She will never stand between us, 
poor child!" 

** And yet I am not convinced. She may be alive. 
Fancy, Mr. Bartram, on our wedding-day, your first wife 













272 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAND. 



appearing to stop the ceremony! 1 have read of such 
things often." 

*' For Heaven's sake, Estelle, don't raise that as an ob- 
jection!" he exclaimed, impetuously. " 1 tell you it is im- 
possible. She is surely dead. And yet, if you wish to 
make conviction certainty, 1 will begin the search over 
again — 1 will leave no stone unturned to trace her fate." 

" And if you find her?" she slowly said. 

** I will never find her — I will not admit such a possibil- 
ity." 

** Because you do not wish to do so. If you found her 
to-morrow, it would be the old story over again, with me 
for rival, instead of my cousin Leonie." 

" No," Alwyn iiartram said, earnestly, *' 1 trust not — 1 
think not. Dearly as I love you, Estelle — and you can 
never know how dearly — I should leave you forever, and 
try to do my duty by her. Happiness I would never know 
apart from you, but I would never willfully look upon your 
face again — never willfully admit a thought of you into the 
heart that should be my wife's. But 1 pray God that 1 
may never be put to the test. Estella is nappy in heaven. 
Oh, my love, let me be happy on earth with you!" 

Again she gave him her hand ; again the light of her 
enchanting smile shone full upon him. 

** You Siall. If I may not call you husband, 1 shall go 
to my grave Estelle De Montreuil! But you must search 
for your lost wife; you must make conviction doubly sure. 
Take the next six months, Alwyn, and devote them to the 
search. 1 do not tell you to use every human means to 
discover her, if by any possibility she be still alive. I know 
you will do that. If, at the end of six months, nothing 
has been discovered, then come to Estelle and claim her 
as your own." 

** My darling!" He lifted the slender hand to his lips 
in a dizzy trance of joy. '* And meantime is the world im 
know of this?" 

" The world may guess, if it will; you and I will tell it 
nothing. But, monsieur, are you quite sure — quite certain 
that the heart you offer me holds no other lodger? Has 
Madame Rutherford no tiny corner of what she once 
possessed completely? Is it all my own? Remember, we De 
Montreuils are a race who brook no rivals." 

** You have none; heart and soul I am all yours! 1 only 



ESTELLA'S HUSBAKD. 



273 



>f suck 

J an ob- 
t is im- 
pish to 
3h over 
fate." 

possibil- 

und her 
with me 

t not — 1 
you can 
ver, and 
er know 
)on your 
into the 
L that 1 
heaven. 

it of her 

shall go 
it search 
ily sure. 

to the 
Leans to 

I know 
nothing 
laim her 

his lips 
^orld t« 

ill tell it 
certain 

ir? Has 
le once 

r, we De 

lonly 



wish 1 could offer you what you so nobly give me, my 
peerless love — a heart that never before held another im- 
age!'' 

She looked at him with gravely earnest eyes. 

" That is your mistake, monsieur. Permit me to rec- 
tify it. My heart has held another image. Eleven years 
ago 1 was as passionately, as infatuatedly in love as it is 
possible for any romantic girl of seventeen to be. I am 
eight-and-tweuty now, monsieur, and many men have 
loved me, or said so, but until to-night they have told me 
in vain; for the man 1 loved so strongly and impetuously 
well-nigh broke my heart, and all those years have scarcely 
healed the wound. I loved him very dearly, and he — 
monsieur, I was no more to him than the dirt under his 
feet." 

The artist listened in pale surprise. 

" He was a brute — an idiot — a blind, besotted imbecile! 
Good heavens! that the man should exist whom you could 
love in vain! But you have forgotten this cold-blooded 
in? ate — you love only me?" 

' Only you," with her most radiant smile. ** Have I 
not said so? And now that we have made our mutual 
confession and settled our future plans, suppose we return 
to the drawing-room? They will certainly miss us, and — 
who knows? — they may guess the truth. We will find 
Leonie looking carving-knives and strychnine, 1 am posi- 
tive. Come!" 

Without waiting for him, she glided away, with a last 
brilliant glance and smile, and mingled calmly with her 
guests. 

But he did not follow immediately. He lingered behind, 
to try and realize his supreme bliss — to try and still the 
mad throbbing of his undisciplined heart. 

He tried in vain; for when he came forth, his worn, dark 
face told his joyful tale to all beholders, glowing with in- 
ward delight. 

*'Gad! said George Waldron, pulling his mustache 
meditatively, ** Bartram's been hoisted to the seventh 
heaven since he went into that little room. Look, Mrs. 
Rutherford — look at that ecstatic face! Your cousin was 
in there, too. Do you suppose that she has had anything 
to do with it? He may have proposed— I have seen it 
coming for some days past — and ^e may have refused; 






274 



estella's husband. 



UK ^. 



* U i 



I 



l'.< t 

.'<.!! 









hi S'''*^ 




but the killed and wounded of the dazzling Estelle don't 
generally look like that. And she refuses every one, of 
course. 

** 1 don't perceive the * of course,' '' Leonie answered, 
spitefully. Mr. Bartram is not accustomed to hear No." 

** He heard it once, though, didn't he? Oh, you have very 
much to answer for, Mrs. Rutherford! And you think she 
may possibly have said Yes? And 1 had made up my mind 
that she was going to live and die one of the vestal virgins. 
She refuses a Russian prince and an English earl, and 
hosts of counts and marquises, and, 1 dare say, if I asked 
her, she would refuse me ; and here she accepts Alwyn 
Bartram at the first word! But it always was that beg- 
gar's luck, with his jaundiced complexion, and black 
whiskers, and gloomy, brigandish air. You women like 
that sort of thing, don't you? — the Edgar Ravens wood style, 
you know. It's a pleasant combination of liver complaint 
and indigestion, but the yellower and sulkier a man looks 
the safer he is to be adored bv tin: whole sex. " 

Mrs. Rutherford had heard v.uy little of this plamtive 
reproach. Her black eyes were lightening dangerously, 
her white teeth were vindietivoly set, as she followed Al- 
wyn Bartram, with a passionple, yearning glance. She 
had lost him forever. 

She saw him join her i^al I /ore her eyes; she saw the 
happy light that transfori/ied his handsome face; she saw 
Estelle mak' place for him beside her, with a shy, glad 
smile. 

'* She liaa ?)Coopted him!" she hissed; '' she will be his 
wife. They have settled it all!" 

** Ah, very likely!" drawled Mr. Waldron, sauntering 
away. " But before she becomes Mrs. Bartram the second, 
hadn't your brilliant cousin better make sure Mrs. 
Bartram the first is dead and done for? Whisper in her 
pretty ear, Leonie, the motto of the fierce Kirkpatrick, 
when he brandished his terrible claymore over the bleeding 
Ked Comyn, * 1 7nak siker.' " 




CHAPTER XXX. 

THE FALL OF THE THDNDER-BOLT. 

The search began — brisk and thorough. Money flowed 
like water through Mr« Bertram's fingers; the best detect- 



estella's husband. 



275 



le don't 
f one, ol 

iswered, 
arNo." 
lave very 
hink she 
ny mind 
virgins. 
)arl, and 
: I asked 
;8 Alwyn 
:hat beg- 
d black 
nen like 
)od style, 
omplaint 
lan looks 

plaintive 
gerously, 
owed Al- 
3e. She 

i saw the 
she saw 
3hy, glad 

11 be his 

untering 
e second, 
ire Mrs. 
er in her 
ipatrick, 
bleeding 



3y flowed 
it detect- 



ives in New York were again on the trail, lost over ten years 
ago; no stone was left unturned, lie worked himself with 
the best of them. He went once more to Chelsea — once 
more he sought out Norah Styles in her spinster retreat. 
But he might as well have appealed to the Sphinx us to 
the stony-faced vestal who grimly confronted him. 

** 1 know nothing whatsoever of ymir wife, Mr. Alwyn 
Bartram,^' she said, inflexibly; " and if I did I wouldn't 
tell you. There!'' 

He returned to New York. Was he disappointed? Did 
he really wish to find Estella? Not for one instant did he 
play hypocrite to himself, or the woman he loved, by pre- 
tending to answer yes. He had no wish to find her alive — 
he had never lovv<id her, it was hardly likely ho could begin 
now. But he did wish to clear up the mystery that shroud- 
ed her fate — to know, when his lovely Estelle Ifiid he; hand 
in his for life, that no other woman on the wide earth had 
a stronger claim upon him than she. 

The weeks went by, the months strung themselves out — 
three had gone. Spring was coming, and the Count De 
Montreuil was beginning to look wi^jtfully at his idolized 
daughter, and talk of returning to Paris. 

She had been so restless all the ten j'earj he had known 
her that this new content of hers puzzled him strangely. 
Like the rest of the world, he saw .he .lar^rlv handsome 
artist ever by her side, and ever most welcon.-e there, and 
he could hard'y be blind to what wus m plain. 

" She has fallen in love at last,"!;.) said to himself, with 
a shrug, " and with this American arl isst. She will marry 
him, I dare say; but 1 ish she wculd return to Paris first. 
1 grow tired of this ^N / York." 

He spoke his wisiKa aloud at last, and- to his surprise, 
Estelle acquiesced at ucje. 

*' Very well, papa." she said; " it shall be as you wish. 
I will prepare for parture immediately. " 

Alwyn Bartram .leard the news with dismay. 

*' At lease I may accompany you," he pleaded. *' The 
search can j>o on as well without me. 1 can not live apart 
from you, Estelle I" 

Mis-^ De Montreuil shook her head resolutely. 

*' You must stay b'^hind until the six months have fully 
expired — then come. Be patient, Alwyn; it is but hide 
over two months now. " 



- V 




ft I '^ 






rJ't'rt f. 




27« 



estella's husband. 



** An eternity — separated from you! Don't be mercfleaa, 
Estelle." 

But Estelle ivas mercilesB on this point, and at last the 
despairing lover had to yield. 

** And how soon do you go?" he asked. 

** In a fortnight, at most. Ijike your true-born Pariv- 
ian, papa is in purgatory when not in Paris. And, when 
you reach France, you shall play suzerain and I vassal. Be 
content and wait." 

He lingered long that evening, with a strange reluctance 
to leave her. Never had she been so gentle, so sweet, so 
lovely, so surely his own. He lingered late, and walked 
home, through the April moonlight, in the blissful trance 
that was his normal state now. 

The gas burned low in his room when he entered, whis- 
tling gayly a popular air, and he saw a letter Iving awaiting 
him on the table. He turned it up, lifted the letter, and 
glanced carelessly at the superscription. On the instant 
he staggered back, with a strong cry, holding it from him, 
his dark face blanching to an awful leaden white from 
hrow to chin; for it was in the handwriting of his lost wife 
— the round, school-girlish hand he remembered so well, 
and there in the corner were her initials. 

He stood paralyzed — his face livid, his eyes starting, 
gazing upon it as though it had been a death's-head. Then, 
in a passion of sudden fury, he tore it open and devoured 
its brief contents: 

** My Husband, — 1 live. Years ago, no doubt, you 
gave me up for dead. 1 never meant to undeceive you — I 
never meant to address a word or a line to you again. 
Though 1 were dying of hunger at your door, I never meant 
to lift my eyes to your face and ask a crumb from you. I 
know who you have searched for me — I know that after ten 
vears you have returned, and are searching for me again. 
1 know your motive, too — you wish to marry again. You 
love another woman, as you once loved Leonie Rutherford 
— you wish to obtain proof of my death, and make her your 
wife. You never cared for me; when you read this, and 
know 1 live, and stand between you and your idol a second 
time, you will hate me. Be it so — 1 will still do my duty. 
My only crime in the past, my only crime in the present, is 
loving you too well. A broken heart, a ruined life — all 



estella's husband. 



277 



merciless, 

it last the 



3rn Pari*- 
.nd, when 
issal. Be 

•eluctance 
I sweet, 80 
id walked 
f ul trauce 

red, whis- 
j awaiting 
etter, and 
he instant 
'rom him, 
hite from 
3 lost wife 
d so well, 

starting. 
Then, 
devoured 



)ubt, you 

re you — I 

ou again. 

rer meant 

you. I 

after ten 

ue again. 

n. You 

jtherford 

her your 

this, and 

a second 

ny duty. 

resent, is 

life— ail 



the wrong and misery of the past — have not hoc n t^trong 
enough to conquer that love. But you can not marry this 
other woman — this French heiress — for I, your hiwful wife, 
before God and man, still live. 1 break my ten years 
silence to warn you. You need not fear me. 1 will never 
appear before you or her — never interfere with you in any 
way save this. But you will not do her, sinew you love her, 
so great a wrong. Ilemember, though the laws of the land 
may set you free, who has salt], ' lie liuit putteth away 
his wife and taketh another committeiii advlhry. ' I do not 
reproach you for the past — I ask nothtuj; i'or the future 
from the husband who never loved me; but if you have 
any mercy for me, or this woman you wish to wed, then 
tell her all, and leave her. Tell her your wife still lives — 
the wife you detest, but yours still — the wifn who may 
never look upon your face until you meet her at the Judg- 
ment Seat, but who now, as then, will still claim you for 
her husband, in life and in death. 

'* ESTELLA BaRTRAM.'* 

He dropped the letter. His face fell forward on the 
table, with one long, unearthly groan. It was the bitter 
wail of a soul in its last fierce death-throe. Then he lay 
still. 

The hours went on; the night passed ; the morning came. 
He had never stirred; he lay there, like a dead man, wres- 
tling in his own strong heart with his strong agony. The 
worst had come: he had lost her — his beautiful Estelle — 
the light of his life — his bride The April morning broke 
jubilant and bright. The sparkling sunshine filled his room; 
the busy city woke up; its noise, its life, was astir around 
him. 

He lifted his head at last, and you saw that the battle 
was fought and the bitter victory won. His face was set 
in an awful calm, but the agony of this one night had left 
it worn, and haggard, and hollow-eyed. 

Passion and duty had battled fiercely, but duty hail won 
the day. His wife lived, and Est.elle Dc Montrcuil was as 
dead to him as though she lay in her coffin. 

He drew forth hi« watch; it was past nine. He arose 
and shook himself, as though he threw off a burden, and 
made a careful toilet, with dull, mechanical precision. 

Civilization has its minor uses, too. Our hearts may 



27S 



BSTELLA'S HUSBAND. 






(1 

iti: 




ii't 



h 1-1 



''5|tr i 






u 





[I 



break, but our dress, when we face our brother man, must 
not bo disordered. The days for sAckcloth and ashes and 
wailing aloud over our dead have gone by. 

He had lost all that made life worth having; in a sunlit 
sea his one bark of hope had gone headlong down forever, 
but when he went forth into the busy outer world, it would 
have been a close observer who could have read the tale of 
the dreary wreck in his set, somber face. 

He found Mile. De Montreuil at home, alone, and at 
leisure. She stood by the window of the sunshiny morn- 
ing-room, amid her roses and geraniums, and canary birds, 
in a crisp muslin robe, with azure ribbons fluttering about 
her, and rose-geranium leaves in her velvet hair. She 
stood f T-esh, and bright, and beautiful in her glorious wom- 
anhood — a " queen of noble nature's crowning " — and she 
turned to greet him with outstretched hand, and a smile 
before whose cloudless radiance the sunshine paled. 

" How delightfully early monsieur comes! Of course you 
have not breakfasted? I am waiting impatiently for the 
bell, for I am most unromantically hungry. But, Alwyn," 
in quick alarm, *' something has happened, surely. How 
strangely you look!" 

** Something has happened,'* he said, in a voice steady 
and deep — '* something that in one brief ni^ht has changed 
me from the most blessed to the most miserable of men. 
Read this — it will tell you all. " 

He handed her the fatal letter. She took it, turned 
slowly away from him to the window, and read it from be- 
ginning to end. 

Her hand dropped heavily by her side; dead silence fell. 
He stood near her, but he could not see her face; it waa 
averted, and her whole body was rigid and still. 

*' For God's sake, speak to me!" he broke out, passion- 
ately. *' Say one word, Estelle. Your silence drives me 
mad!" 

She turned slowly round, the letter still in her hand, her 
face very pale, her eyes glittering and quite dry. But the 
voice that answered him had lost the clear, silvery ring that 
made its contralto tones like liquid music. 

*' I have known it from the first. I have felt it here,'^ 
tapping lightly on her dainty corsage. " Our dream bus 
been very sweet, Alwyn, but it must end." 

He turned from her with a sort of fierce crv — th»^ «in- 



E8TELLA*S HUSBAND. 



379 



' man, must 
1 ashes and 

; in a sunlit 
wn forever. 
Id, it would 
1 the tale of 

one, and at 
3hiny morn- 
anary birds, 
;eritig about 
hair. She 
jrious wom- 
" — and she 
ind a smile 
lied. 

f course you 
ntly for the 
it, Alwyn," 
irely. How 

'^oice steady 
las changed 
ble of men. 

: it, turned 
it from be- 

silence fell. 
:ace; it was 

ut, passion- 
e drives me 



r hand, her 
But the 
ry ring that 



t it here, "' 
dream liua 

v — tht^ 'in- 



earthly sound of a wild animal goaded to madness by intol- 
erable pain. 

*' It is easy for you — you, who are an angel; but for me 
— for me, with a maii^s rebellious, passionate heart — Oh, 
Estelle, my love, my life! 1 ca?i not give you up!*' 

She covered her face, trembling all over at the frantic 
anguish of that cry. 

*' She should not have spoken!'* he broke out incoher- 
ently. " She has been as dead for the past ten years; she 
should have remained dead to me to the end. What right 
has she to stand between me and my heavenly dream of 
bliss? I never cared for her, and she knows it. How dare 
she interfere now?" 

" She is your wife." 

The sweet, sad voice, mournful and low, fell on his fierce 
spirit as the harp of David on the fury of Saul, the king. 
She said no more, and a long silence fell. 

Vehemently he paced up and down; cold and pale she 
stood, looking out at the mocking sunshine. Her soft, 
tender tones again were first to break the spell. 

** She is your wife — your much- wronged, long-suffering 
wife. You will go to her, Alwyn, will you not? Think 
how long and how dearly she has loved you!" Her voice 
trembled. *' Oh, surely such devotion as hers deserves 
some reward!" 

** You are right!" He stopped suddenly in his excited 
walk. ** You are my good angel now, as ever. I saw my 
duty clear and plain last night, through all the passionate 
struggle of love and despair that well-nigh drove me mad, 
and I resolved to follow it. But the sight of you, this 
morning, awoke all my madness again. MypoorEstella!" 
He leaned against the window, his arms folded over his 
heaving chest, his colorless face full of untold despair. 
** She deserves a better fat© than to share such a wrecked 
life as mine!" 

** Then you wiM seek her out, and at once?" 

*' Yes," he said, drearily; " it is all that is left me to do 
now. 1 will seek her out; I will talw her back to Italy, 
and. Heaven helping me, I will do my best to atone for 
the past. Happiness I will never know again. Your 
face, my Estelle, will lie on my heart to my dying day; 
bat when we part here, 1 will never willfully look upon it 



i» t<i 



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f 



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280 



estella's husband. 



B' ^^ 








' I 






again. For you — yoti will forget me, and hlesa the life of 
a better man/' 

He stopped abruptly, and turned away. 

And very clear and sweet the low vo.';e of Eatelle De 
Montreuil replied: 

** I told you once, and I tell you again, I will never call 
earthly man husband, if I may not call you. As 1 love you 
now, I will love you all my life. My best wishes and 
prayers for your happiness will be with you while this heart 
beats." 

Again silence. Alwyii Bartram could not speak, but 
the dark, despairing eyes looking out at the street were 
burning and dry. 

" You will seek your wife at once,*' Estelle said, softly. 
** She gives her address, I see, at the end of the letter. 
Here it is, and " — a momentary hesitation — " when you 
see her — when all is explained — when you are reunited — 
you will come and say good-bye to me? 1 am miserably 
weak, but 1 — 1 want to see you once again.-' 

** I will come," he answered, hoarsely — *' once more^ 
and for the last time. Until then — '* 

He turned away abruptly. A second later, and the 
street-door closed after nim; another second, and the 
breakfast-bell, for which mademoiselle, half an hour ago, 
had been waiting so impatiently, rang; but mademoiselle 
did not descend. Mrs. Rutherford breakfasted alone, and 
her cousin hid herself in her room the livelong day. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

THE PAST REDEEMED. 

It was a forlon tenement house, away down by the East 
River, and the afternoon light was low in the red west when 
Alwyn Bartram reached it. lie had been there before, and 
on the very threshold, with a strange inconsistency, his feet 
had turned away. 

It would have been easier for him to have led a forlorn 
hope, amid the deadly belching of cannon, than to stand 
face to face once more with his unloved, his much-wronged 
wife. 

He made his way up the dreary staircase, dark already, 
along the dreary passages, and stopped at the room a little 
ilip-shod girl (his cicerone) pointed out 



ESTELLA*S HUSBAND. 



281 



nee more. 



*' The larly lives hero," she said. '* Knock loud, for 
motliiu* 8ay» sho's dick, and may bu she's asluep. " 

lin stood a moment aftcM* tho Hli))-sli()d fairy liad bounded 
?tway, tlien lifted his hand, and knocked heavily. 

An instant, and iho door was opunod by a poorly dressed 
woman with a baby in lier arms. 

" Mrs. Bartram lives herey" he said, slowly. 

" Yes, sir,'^ the woman answered, '' she's here. Will 
you walk in? She's poorly, and she's lying down, but 
she's awake. " 

He followed her in, his heart beating like a muffled 
drum. The twilight filled the room; a dull red fire glowed 
in the grate, diffusing heat, hut little light. On a lounge, 
in front of this fire, wrapped in a large shawl, half buried 
amid pillows, lay a female figure — his wife! 

** I 11 step down-stairs, Mrs. Bartram," the woman said, 
** while you talk to the gentleman. Do you want the lamp 
lighted?" 

" No," said a stilled voice from among the pillows. 
** there is light enough. 1 will knock on the floor when I 
want you, Mrs. Gray." 

Estella's very voice! And after all these weary years, 
these commonplace words were the first he heard her speak. 

The woman left the room and closed the door. Then, 
Mr. Bartram, standing motionless like some tall, black 
ghost, advanced and knelt down beside the lounge. 

** Estella," he said, huskily, " after all these years — at 
last! And this is how 1 find you — poor, and ill, and alone. 
How shall 1 answer to God and man for the wrong I have 
done you?" ^ 

She covered her face with her hands. He could hear her 
aobbing; he could see the tears that fell like rain. 

" Only forgive me!" she said, in the same stifled voice. 
'' Do not altogether hate me for what I have done! Ob, 
Alwyn, I have suffered bitterly since we parted, but ^he 
thought that I must again stand between you and happi- 
ness — the thought that you may learn to hate me — has 
been the bitterest suffering of all." 

*' My poor little Essie!" He drew her hands from be- 
fore her face and tried to see it. ** Let me look at you— 
let me see once more the faithful, loving face— always so 
tender, so true. And you love me still, my poor little wife 
— I who have been the greatest villain on earth to you?" 




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'* My husband," her hand slipped into his, and held it 
close, ** when I cease to love you I shall be dead." 

He drew her to him, and kissed the pale face he could 
hardly see — his heart too full at the moment for words. 

" It was hard to have to write that letter," she whis- 
pered; ** but 1 could not let you commit that crime, Al- 
wyn. Oh, my darling I" clasping him close, " say you for- 
give ma for what I have done!" 

" / forgive you — you who have done no wrong? You 
mock me, Esteila! The only thing I find it hard to for- 
give is your long silence. Why could you not be merciful 
and speak before, Essie?" 

She sighed drearily. 

'* 1 was so worn out, so heartsick, all faith, and trust, 
and hope, dead! 1 could not have undergone it again. 
And — you did not love me. You had no faith in me, no 
love for me; you sought me from a hard sense of duty, and 
— I could not go. Don't let us speak of it — don't let ua 
speak of the past — I could not bear it. Yet it is very good 
of you to come here; but you must not come again. Let 
me go my own way — 1 will never interfere with you more 
— and try to be happy with your art. Go back to Italy — 
I know you have been there — and try to forget the great 
mistake of your life — your marriage with me." 

She disengaged herself from him, and half sat up, speak- 
ing firmly, steadily. For one second of time the arch- 
tompter whispered, " Take her at her word — your life 
linked to her will be that of the galley-slave, a burden to 
both." But it was only for a second. 

** Never," he said, steadily, *' so help me Heaven! My 
wife shall go .vith me wherever I go — never on earth to 
part again! Oh, Esteila, I have been a wretch, a scoun- 
drel, in the past, but with all my might I will strive to 
atone now. Let me redeem that miserable past — let mtt 
devote my whole future life to you. Forgive and forgei 
what is gone, my tender-hearted little Essie, and all thai 
the most devoted husband ever was to his wife I will strive 
to be to you. " 

There was a little pause, then — 

*' Will you promise to love me?" she asked, softly. 

*' 1 promise. I haven't — 1 don't — but I will! Whc 
could help loving — in time — a wife so sweet, so patient, so 
long -suffering, so true?" 



'^'^i««i4 



estella's husband. 



283 



md held it 

m 

36 he could 
words. 
' she whis- 
crime, Al- 
ay you for- 

>ng? You 
ard to f or- 
)e merciful 



and trust; 
e it again. 
1 In me, no 
I duty^ and 
ion't let us 
8 very good 
.gain. Let 
I you more 
^ to Italy- 
it the great 

up, speak- 
the arch- 

—your life 
burden to 

iven! My 

earth to 

a scoua- 

strive to 

it — let mtt 

ind forgei 

Id all thav 

will strive 



>ftly. 

lill! Whc 
)atient, so 



'*And Mrs. Rutherford," Estella said, abruptly; "is 
she quite forgotten?" 

** Quite — long and many a year ago. When I lost you, 
1 ceased to care for her.'* 

" And this other — her cousin — you do love her?" 

She could feel the strong shudder that shook him from 
head to foot 

"For pity's sake, Estella, don't let us speak of that! 
Take me for what 1 am; but not even to you, least of all 
to you, can 1 speak of her. Let me forget if I can — she is 
dead to me from this day. If I had only known you lived 
before I met her I" 

The strong passion of that suppressed cry thrilled her to 
the heart. 

** I am sorry — I am sorry! Oh, Alwyn, perhaps it might 
have been better if 1 had never written that letter!" 



(I 



No!" he said, steadily, " a thousand times no! Right 
is right — you did what you should have done, Estella. 
Don't fear for me — I will forget Ler, if 1 can — my wife, I 
trust, will have my whole heart. I will see her once again 
to say farewell — then, Estella, I will cease to remember 
there is another woman on earth but yourself. You will 
leave this wretched place at once — you will come with me 
now, will you not?" 
*' You are very good; but, Alwyn, you will rApent" 

*' Never! Trust me, my wife, all unworthy as 1 am. 
Trust me, as you have forgiven me — you shall never regret 
it again. You will come with me immediately, then? 1 
can not talk to you — I can not endure to see you — in thi^ 
wretched place. " 

** Not to-night," Estella answered. ** I can not go at 
once. Give me till to-morrow — you shall know why later. 
Come for me, if you will, the day after. And now I will 
send you away. I am not very strong, as you see, and 
this interview has worn me out 

He kissed the pale forehead and arose at once. 

" You have not even let me see yoa, Essie, and after ten 
— nay, eleven long years of parting." 

" Ah, that will come all too soon. Think what sad 
changes ten years of loneliness, and poverty, and labor, 
toust work, and don't come back — don't ever ask to see 
toe. The contrast between me and— Aer will be too cruel." 















284 



estella's husband. 



Again that shiver shook him — any allusion to the lovely 
bride he had lost brought with it the bitterness of death. 

** The day after to-morrow I will call for you/* he said, 
briefly. ** Good-night, Estella, since you will it so, and 
take care of yourself for my sake — until then.*' 

He lifted her hand to his lips. A moment latrr, and ha 
was gone. 

Straight through the silvery spring twilight, he went to 
the house of Count De Montreuil. He never stopped to 
think. 

** Since it must be, 'twere well done quickly," he mut- 
tered, between set white teeth. " Let me say farewell at 
once, and tear her image out of my heart forever, if I can. 
Ah, * i/ 1 can * — so easy to say, so terribly hard to do!" 

He reached the house, rang the bell, and was admitted 
at once. Mile, de Montreuil was in the library and alone, 
and to the library at once he strode. 

He paused a moment on the threshold to take in the pict- 
ure — a picture never to be forgotten. She lay back in a 
great carved and gilded chair, tha gas-light flooding her 
with soft glory, her bright silk dress shimmering and flash- 
ing, misty lace fluttering and jewels sparkling about her. 
She was reading, but she dropped her book and rose up 
quickly as she saw him. How dazzliugly beautiful she 
looked, now that he had lost her forever! And he was an 
artist, with all an artist's passion for the beautiful and the 
luxurious. He thought of the scene he had left, not an 
hour ago, and the contrast, as his wife had said, was in- 
deed cruel. 

** Well," Miss De Montreuil breathed, ** you have seen 
her?" 

** I have seen her." 

He advanced, and leaned heavily against the marble 
mantel. In the hush that fell between them, he could 
hear Leonie in the drawing-room, touching the piano softly 
and plaintively, and the words of her melancholy song, 
** Love not! love not! oh, hapless sons of clay!" 

*' Then nothing remains for us but to shake hands and 
part," EsteJle De Montreuil said, in a steady voice. " You 
have my best wishes for your happiness, Mr. Bartram." 

The name stung him — it had always been Alwyn of late. 
But these little things were only part of the dull despair at 
jiis heart. 



-««» 



;he lovely 
death. 
' he said, 
t so, and 

V, and ha 

went to 
;opped to 

' he mut- 

i re well at 
if I can. 

do!" 
admitted 
nd alone, 

1 the pict- 
back in a 
ding her 
md flash- 
)out her. 
d rose up 
itifu^ she 
le was an 
1 and the 
t, not an 
, was in- 

lave seen 



marble 
le could 
no softly 
»ly song, 

ands and 
"You 
■ram." 
of late, 
espair at 



estella's husband. 



285 



(i 



•( 



Tou are very good,'^ he said, without looking at her. 

1 have come straight from her to you. 1 found her poor, 
and sick, and alone. The story of the past ten years she 
has not told me, but I can guess what it must have been. 
She has forgiven me — she loves me still — 1 can say no 
more. I told her I would see you this once and never 
again, and 1 will keep my word. " 

He did not lift his head — his arm was thrown over the 
mantel, he leaned heavily against it, his face white and 
drawn. She drew a long, shivering breath, then went up 
close to him. 

** You will devote your life to her — you will forget our 
brief dream? You will make her happy — you will re- 
deem the past?'* 

"Godhelpingme, I wilir' 

** And 1," Estelle said, very gently, very sadly, " will 
pray for you both. Some day, years and years from this, 
when your heart is all hers, when I am but a memory and 
a shadow, we may meet and laugh over our old folly. Our 
heads may be silvered, our faces withered and old, but the 
time will come." 

" The time will never come." He lifted his head, and 
his strong, dark eyes met hers full and clear. ** Never, 
and you know it! I will do my duty by my wife, but you 
1 will never forget! But with you it is different— young, 
and beautiful, and free, the image of the man who so 
wretchedly lost you need not blight your life. We may 
meet when you are a happy wife — not before." 

** Then we will never meet," she answered, quietly. ** I 
am a De Montreuil, and I keep my word. Good-bye, Al- 
wyn Bartram," she held out her white hand, ** and for- 
ever! You go to Italy — I to France. We may never cross 
each other's paths again; but let us remember there is still 
another land where all may meet, and where partings come 
no more. There, mon ami," the white hand pointed up- 
ward, ** is the true patrie. Farewell!" 

She stooped, kissed the hand that lay cold and still in 
hers, and flitted from the room. 

A subtile odor of perfume lingering behind — the echo of 
the softest, sweetest voice woman ever owned — were all 
that remained to him of the peerless Estelle. ^^ 

He stood still — motionless as the marble ajfifnst which 
he leaned — his face bowed upon his arm. Very mourn- 



:^6 



bstella's husband. 



I 



fi\2 



fully floated in the ^ords of Leonie's song: ** Love noti 
love not!" Oh, warning vainly i^aid ! The silvery moon- 
light streamed between the parted curtains — the houie was 
very still. The song Mrs. Kutherford plaintively sung was 
the only sound to disturb Alwyn Bartram. He stood there 
mute, motionless; and if ever human suffering atoned for 
human sin, then he, Estella's husband, in that hour of 
supreme despair, had redeemed the past. 



CHAPTER XXXn, 

**POST TENEBRA8 LUX!" 

Late in the afternoon of the second day, a carriage drew 
up before that shabby tenement house, where carriages 
were a dream and myth, and Mr. Bartram sprung out. 

He ran up the stairs, and rapped at the door of his wife's 
room. There was no response. He rapped again — still 
ailence. He turned the handle; the door was locked. 

"The lady's gone." 

It was the voice of the woman who before had admitted 
him. She came to the head of the stairs, and peered at 
him curiously. 

" Gone!" he echoed, in amaze. ** Gone where?" 

The woman shook her head. 

** I don't know, sir — she left no word. She came into 
my room, yesterday, and bid me good-bye, and told me, if 
a gentleman called, to tell him she had left for good. 
That's all 1 know, sir." 

The woman disapperired. Alwyn Bartram leaned 
against the dirty, begrimed wall, sick at heart. 

What did it mean? Was she mad? Why had she run 
away from him again? 

** ShB pretended to love me," he thought, bitterly, ** and 
she proved it — thus ! But this time 1 will find her — this 
time she shall not baffle me! Poor child! she is afraid to 
trust me still." 

He went out rapidly, re-entered the carriage, and was 
driven back to his hotel. As he entered, a waiter met him 
with a sealed note. 

** Just been left, sir, by a servant in livery. 1 was about 
to bring it up to your room." 

Mr. Bartram took it^ and started visibly. Ah! he knew 



■^.m 



lOve noti 
y moon- 
ouie was 
sung was 
K)d there 
;oiied for 
hour of 



age drew 
carriages 
l out. 
his wife's 
ain — still 
ked. 

admitted 
peered at 

ame into 
Id me, if 
or good. 

leaned 

she run 

■^y, " and 
ler — this 
jif raid to 

d was 
let him 

ras about 

le knew 



estella's husband. 



287 



that delicate Italian hand — that thick, perfumed, glitter* 
ing paper — that proud old crest, and the motto beneath, 
" Tiensta/oy.'* 

What could Mile. De Montreuil have to say to him now f 
He turned away and opened it. It was eminently brief: 

** Monsieur, — Your wife is here. Come this evening, 
and receive her from my hand. 

** ESTELLE." 

His wife with her! He crumpled the note fiercely in his 
palm. 

"Are they both in league against me," he thought, 
** that they are resolved to make it as bitter as they can? 
1 am only human — they should not try me too far. But 1 
will go — it wiJl be something to look once more upon 7ier 
beautiful face!" 

As men on the verge of execution have stopped to make 
elaborate toilets, so on this last evening Alwyn Bartram 
stood before the glass, attiring himself as carefully as 
though the heart in his bosom did not lie like lead. He 
went through it mechanically, and his own haggard face, 
and hollow eyes, with the deep bistre tints beneath, told of 
the bitterness within, so bravely and silently endured. 

It was nearly eight, and the silvery moonlight was flood- 
ing the city streets with indescribable glory, as he rang the 
door-bell of the French noble's familiar mansion. 

The servant who admitted him ushered him into the 
empty drawing-room, and went i i search of his mistress. 

He crossed over, and stood, as on that other night, lean- 
ing moodily against the chimney-piece, wondering vaguely 
which of them would come — his wife or Estelle, or both 
together. 

As the thought crossed his mind, the door opened — ho 
lifted his somber eyes, and beheld a radiant vision. 

It was Estelle De Montreuil, and in the dress of a bride! 

Her rich robe of dead- white silk swept the vel?et carpet 
— diamonds blazed upon the beautiful bare neck and arms, 
and a crown of jeweled orange-blossoms sparkled on the 
shining hair. That lovely chevelure was no longer wreathed 
in a coronet of velvet braids around the regal head, but 
hung in glistening ringlets below the slender waist. Stately 
and oeautiful as a young queen she stood before him, and 
yet in all her magnificence she had never reminded him so 



'ii; 



I; 



288 



estella's husband. 



vividly of simple little Estellaas now. Those flowing curls 
were all that was needed to make the resemblance com- 
plete. 

He stood and looked at her, dazed, stanned. Dressrd 
as a bride — what did it mean? 

** Monsieur stands entranced !'' she said, gayly, coming 
forward. *' Speechless with admiration, no doubt. Uow 
surprised you must have been this afternoon, upon receiv- 
ing my note!** 

** 1 have lived in a state of perpetual surprises of late,'' 
he answered; ** the power to wonder at anything is fast 
leaving me. But if it is not impertinent, I should like to 
know what t/iat dress means?" 

** What it says — that 1 am a bride!" 

He stood motionless as death. 

" A bride!" he repeated, in a sort of whisper—** a 
bride r 

** A happy bride, monsieur!" She came close to him, 
the delicate cheeks flushed, the starry eyes shining. ** But 
you — you do not ask for your wife, and I told you she was 
herf " 

'}.!):> ut smile — that radiant face! Some dim perception of 
*h.i, glorious truth dawned upon him. He caught his 
breath, his brain turning giddy. 

** For God's sake, speak!" he cried, hoarsely. ** 1 think 
1 am going mad!" 

She held out both lovely hands — ringless save for one 
plain circlet of gold — the beautiful face luminous with 
love, and light, and joy. 

** Nay, you are sane at last," she said. ** Oh, Alwyn, 
Alwyn! don't you know me?" 

And then the scales fell from his eyes, and he knew the 
truth — the bewildering, delirious truth! His wife stood 
before him! 

*' Estelle!" 

He could utter no more — the room and everything in it 
was literally spinning round before the strong man's eyes. 

** Estelle, no more — Estella Bartram, your wife I Oh, 
blind, blind, blind that you have been, not to have kn vvu 
long ago! Estelle De Montreuil no longer, but your little 
Essie, my darling husband, if you will forgive me and take 
me back!" 

She threw herself upon his breast, in a sudden paroxysm 



'•#. *>',.vjl. 



Ing curls 
ce com- 

Dreasfi 

, coming 
t. How 
n receiv- 

)f late/' 
g is fast 
id like to 



per—** a 

to him, 
. " But 
1 she was 

eption of 
ught his 

1 think 

for one 
>us with 

Alwyn, 

[new the 
I stood 



|ing in it 
I's eyes. 

>I Oh, 
ki) 'vvu 
)ur little 
ind take 

iroxysm 



ESTELLAS Hl'SBAND. 



289 



of womanly weeping, clinging to him with convulsive 
strength. 

** At last, my husband, you love me — at last the pain, 
the misery, the long, lonely, dreary years of separation, 
are at an end! Oh, my darling — my darling! the dream 
of my life is won!" 

He held her to him close — close. But he did not speak 
— he could not; his heart seemed ready to burst — full of 
an ecstasy that was nigh akin to pain. She lifted her 
lovely face, pale and tear-stained, in a piteous, childish ap- 
peal, that reminded him of the ** Little Essie " of other 
days. 

*' You are not angry, Alvvyn? Oh, speak to me — tell 
me you love me — tell me you are glad you have found 
your long-lost wife!" 

"Glad!" he repeated— " ^7«<? / Oh, Estella! words 
are nothing — I can not say what is in my heart! I can 
only say, thank God!" 

It was an hour later. Side by side on the sofa these re- 
united lovers sat, beginning to rationally realize their su- 
preme bliss at last. 

** How ten years must have altered me," Estella said, 
** since you did not know me! I have changed greatly, I 
know, in every respect, and I was not surprised that Leonie 
should not recognize me; but you — yes, I did think, Al- 
wyn, you would know your wife." 

** I always saw the resemblance," Alwyn answered, 
'* and once the idea struck me that you might be my 
Estella, there were so many coincidences; but 1 drove the 
idea from me, as the maddest of mad i omances. My little, 
pale, timid Essie had so little in common with this regally 
Deautiful, this queenly Mademoiselle De Montreuil, with 
the best blood of France in her patrician veins, that I think 
even I may be pardoned for not recognizing you. But, 
Estella, ivhy did you not tell me at once?" 

" Ah, 1 am only a woman like the rest, and I did want 
my husband to love me!" 

" Well, you speedily attained that wish. Heaven knows. 
Why did you not speak then?" 

** Because, sir, you didn't deserve it, and revenge is 
sweet! I had suffered — I am not going to flatter your 
masculine vanity now by saying how much — and it was 

10 



290 



estella's husband. 



only poetic juRtice that you should sufTor, too. And ii 
was so delightful — the idea of playing incognito — in seeing 
your infatuation, your hopeless infatuation, for your own 
wife—your despised little Essie! Besides, 1 had very se- 
rious doubts of you, monsieur. You were in love with 
Count JJeMontreuil's daughter, but supposing she accepted 
your love, and your runaway wife turned up, how would 
you act? Alwyn, if you had done other than as you have 
done, you would never have known mo! 1 would have 
gone back to France, and never looked upon your face 
again. But principle conquered passion — you nobly re- 
deemed the past, and made me too ha])py for words to tell. '* 

There was an eloquent silence, and Mr. Bartram kissed 
his wife. Then — 

** Does the count know?" he inquired. 

** I told him to-day. You should have seen his face, 
Alwyn; and Leonie's, for of course 1 told her too." She 
laughed merrily at the recollection. "Poor Leonie! I 
don't think she will return with us to Paris. Ever since 
I let the murder out, she has shut herself up in her room 
en penitence. But I don't despair of her ultimate recov- 
ery." 

"Neither do 1," said Mr. Bartram, rather cynically- 
" We don't break our hearts in these latter days. But, 
Essie, look here — how did you manage the other night, 
when indulging in your private theatricals? 1 left yon be- 
hind me in the tenement house, and I found you here be- 
fore me, elaborately dressed, upon my arrival. Explain 
that little circumstance, madame." 

** It is very easily explained," was the answer. " You 
walked, and it took you fully an hour. 1 rode, and ir did 
not take me quarter that time. The carriage was waiting 
for me in the next street, and as for my toilet, I possess a 
maid who is past-mistress of her art. 1 am afraid it was 
rather silly, all that acting, but 1 know I enjoyed it thor- 
oughly, and you deserved the punishment. How delight- 
fully miserable you looked!" 

*' You heartless Xantippe! But the time of retribution 
has come; you shall be paid back in your own coin. Oh, 
Estella, Estella!" with a sudden change of voice, a sud- 
den, passionate clasping to his heart—" is this all an en- 
chanting dream? Will I ever be able to realize my great 
bliss? What have I done to be so blessed?" 



ISTELLA'S HUyJlAND. 



f»l 



0. And 14 
) — in seeing 
r your own 
111(1 very se- 
iu love with 
she accepted 
, how would 
as you have 
would have 
m your face 
11 nobly re- 
jrds to tell." 
^rtram kissed 



leen his face, 
T too." She 
3r Leonie'. I 
. Ever since 
) in her room 
Itimate rccov- 

ler cynically- 
days. But, 
other night, 

1 left you be- 
you here be- 
al. Explain 

5wer. " You 
le, and ir did 
was waiting 
it, I possess a 
I afraid it was 
hoyed it thor- 
THow delight- 

)f retribution 
In coin. Oh, 
1 voice, a sud- 
Ihis all an en- 
lize my great 



She lay on his broad, true breast, pale from rery excm 
of joy. 

** We need the discipline," she murmured. ** We will 
be all the happier in the future for the sorrow of the past. 
Estella and her husband will never doubt each other more." 

* ♦ in « « He le 

Three days later. Count De Montrouil, his daughter, and 
his daughter's husband, sailed for France. Mrs. Ruther- 
ford declined being one of the party, and remained in New 
York. 

The romantic story got wind at once, of course, and was 
the nine-days' wonder of the city. The people talked of it, 
the papers teemed with it; it created a furore unprecedent- 
ed. But Estella and her hu&band were far away on the 
" heaving sea," and all their new celebrity fell harmless. 

Mr. George Waldron pulled his tawny mustache, and 
looked plaintive. 

*' It is better to be born lucky than rich. My grand- 
mother used to say so; and gad! I believe the old lady wau 
right. To think of the luck that fellow Bartram has come 
to, while better men go begging! The women always 
adored him; his pictures sell like wildfire; two fortunes 
fall to him together; and now a third, and the loveliest 
wife under the starry sky. By Jove! it's enough to make 
ft man go mxd cut his throat.'' 



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